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CDC advisory panel recommends flu vaccine for all Americans

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice  (ACIP) voted Feb 24 to recommend flu vaccine for all Americans aged 6 months and older.

The expanded recommendation will take effect in the 2010-2011 flu season.  The CDC says in a press release that the measure is to increase flu immunization and stress that it's important to prevent flu across the entire population.

ACIP' early recommended that children aged 6 months through 18 years of age and those who are in close contacts of higher risk persons who already account for some 85 percent of the U.S. population.

The ACIP members believe that all people aged 19 to 49 years of age should be given flu vaccine as the need was evident during the 2009 H1n1 pandemic. Another reason for the universal recommendation is because it can clear confusion in some people who are in the high risk group but not aware of their risk status.  Further, the CDC says some people who are not covered in the previous recommendation are actually at higher risk of serious flu-related complications including those who are obese, postpartum women and people in certain racial/ethnic groups.

The Food and Drug Administration has decided to include in the next season's flu vaccine three viruses namely an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, an A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus, and a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.

The CDC says that the annual flu vaccine is a safe and preventive health action that benefits all people.  But it points out that certain people are at higher risk for flu complications. These people include those aged 65 years and older, children younger than 6 months of age, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.

A high percentage of Americans do not believe they need flu vaccine, according to previous poll results.  Many people including medical workers in the state of New York refused to receive swine flu vaccine saying that they don't need the vaccine because the swine flu is not severe and the vaccine may not be effective in the first place.

These people are not to blame.  It is a fact that flu vaccine is not so highly effective.  The real efficacy of a flu vaccine remains largely unknown because flu vaccines are often tested in healthy individuals for antibodies, but not the incidence of flu.

Tom Jefferson of the Cochrane Collaboration in Rome, Italy and colleagues conducted a thorough search of studies based on previous vaccine trials.   Of the 75 studies reviewed, the researchers were able to identify only one recent randomized controlled trial with "real" outcomes.  All the other studies in the review except one were considered of low quality and open to bias, Wiley-Blackwell, the journal publisher says in a press release.

Often times, the outcome of a clinical flu vaccine trial is flu antibodies in the recipients' blood, not incidence of the virus in study population compared to that of the controls.  

Jefferson was cited as saying "until we have all available evidence, it is hard to reach any clear conclusions about the effectiveness of influenza vaccines in older people."

Observations are abundant that many people got the flu after receiving one or two shots of flu vaccine.  

Still many believe low efficacy is better than nothing. The CDC says even if a flu vaccine does not help prevent flu, it would help relieve flu symptoms.  

Jefferson said "As the evidence is so scarce at the moment, we should be looking at other strategies to complement vaccinations. Some of these are very simple things like personal hygiene, and adequate food and water."

Regardless of a person's vaccination status, he may take some simple measure to help prevent flu.  Evidence suggests that vitamin D could be one of the best on earth to help you prevent flu.

Two physicians, according to a newsletter published in 2009 by Vitamin D Council, reported in 2009 that adults using high doses of vitamin D rarely got flu including swine flu.  One physician in Wisconsin who works for a senior care center said only 2 in more than 300 residents got flu during a period compared to more than 100 in about 800 medical workers serving in the same facility who got a flu-like illness.  The difference is, the elderly residents are asked to take vitamin d supplements while the medical workers are not.

Another physician who works in Georgia reported that none of his patients who regularly check on their serum vitamin D levels and take supplementation got flu during the swine flu outbreak that hit five states at once, including Georgia.  This is compared to 10 percent of patients who see a physician in a nearby office.  The difference?  The physician who got many flu patients did not advise his patients to use high doses of vitamin D. 

Dr. John Cannell, a vitamin D expert and director of Vitamin D Council suggests adults may use 4000 to 6000 IU of vitamin D daily.

By David Liu

The article may contain some content from articles previously published on foodconsumer.org


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