Has the need for the influenza vaccine been “overhyped”, and does belief in its safety and benefit rest on shaky scientific ground? Yes, says a recent article in the British Medical Journal, which points out that the enormous growth of this market has not been because of patient demand, but rather an intense public health campaign promoting it as a virtually risk free way to save lives and illness from influenza. These assertions may not be true, and yet annual flu vaccine doses in the United States grew from 32 million in 1990 to over 135 million today. Flu shots are administered in clinics, pharmacies and even drive through centers. But not everyone wants to have one, but the pressure to vaccinate is high and the risks are minimized if acknowledged at all. Serious and life threatening injuries can occur from an flu shot. The risk of Guillain Barre Syndrome after vaccination is estimated at 1 to 2 cases per million people. Is the market driven by patient benefit or by the benefit to manufacturers with the government support?
The risk benefit analysis for an individual must include:
· The degree of protection (e.g. the chance of not getting or only getting a mild the flu)
· The risk of serious injury from particular influenza virus
· The relative risk for the individual for an influenza infection
· The risk of serious injury from the vaccine.
If the degree of protection is low and the risk of serious injury from the influenza virus for a particular individual is low, then the risk of serious injury from the shot becomes more of an issue.
For people under 19 years of age, the risk of death from an influenza infection is about 0.15 per 100,000. However, the risk of developing GBS is the same. One has to question vaccinating this age group to solely to create herd immunity – a clear benefit over risk analysis on an individual basis does not exist. On the other hand, death from influenza infection occurs in 17 to 65 per 100,000 people infected. In this group, the benefits of vaccination are clear. People from 19 to 64 have a 0.4 to 1.5 death rate per 100,000 from the flu.
Britcher Leone & Roth understand the benefits of vaccinations but believes that peopleneed to know the risks. Providers do not routinely recognize the individual’s risk because they concentrate on the overall public benefit. Unfortunately, compulsory vaccination programs prevent individual consideration. Britcher Leone & Roth has expertise in determining whether people suffer injury after a vaccination and, when that happens, assist in filing for compensation with the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund.