Govt. Researchers: Flu Shots Not Effective in Elderly, After All


(Above image: a nurse interests a passerby in flu shot information. Courtesy: NCIRD/OD/HCSO Flu vaccination communications team)

An important and definitive “mainstream” government study done nearly a decade ago got little attention because the science came down on the wrong side. It found that after decades and billions of dollars spent promoting flu shots for the elderly, the mass vaccination program did not result in saving lives. In fact, the death rate among the elderly increased substantially.

The authors of the study admitted a bias going into the study. Here was the history as described to me: Public health experts long assumed flu shots were effective in the elderly. But, paradoxically, all the studies done failed to demonstrate a benefit. Instead of considering that they, the experts, could be wrong–instead of believing the scientific data–the public health experts assumed the studies were wrong. After all, flu shots have to work, right?

17141_loresSo the NIH launched an effort to do “the” definitive study that would actually prove, for the first time, once and for all, that flu shots were beneficial to the elderly. The government would gather some of the brightest scientific minds for the research, and adjust for all kinds of factors that could be masking that presumed benefit.

But when they finished, no matter how they crunched the numbers, the data kept telling the same story: flu shots were of no benefit to the elderly. Quite the opposite. The death rate had increased markedly since widespread flu vaccination among older Americans. The scientists finally had to acknowledge that decades of public health thought had been mistaken.

Read the government study that found no flu shot benefit in elderly

In 2006, lead author Lone Simonsen spoke with me on the phone and agreed to do an on camera interview with me on her study results, which she felt were very important. However, her bosses at the National Institutes of Health blocked the interview. I ended up finding one of her co-authors who was independent from the government and was able to interview him. These study authors who were honest, at their own career peril, should be commended.

After the Simonsen study, many international studies also arrived at the same conclusion. You probably haven’t heard much about these “incendiary” findings. Too much money being made promoting flu shots?

Read Simonsen’s commentary on her study

Read current CDC flu information

Here’s my original video story on the topic.

Transcript below:

Flu shots and elderly, CBS News, Sharyl Attkisson
Millions of seniors swear by their annual flu shots. After all, 90% of the people killed by the flu are 65 or older. But CBS News has learned that behind the scenes, public health officials have come to a new and disturbing conclusion: mass vaccinations of the elderly haven’t done the job. Dr. Walter Orenstein was among the first to notice the problem when he headed up the Centers for Disease Control’s national immunization program. He says it’s now become a consensus among public health experts.
Dr. Orenstein: “What is absolutely clear is that there is still a substantial burden of deaths and hospitalizations out there that has not been prevented through the present strategy.”
Here’s what scientists have found. Over 20 years, the percentage of seniors getting flu shots increased sharply from 15% to 65%. It stands to reason that flu deaths among the elderly should have taken a dramatic dip making an “X” graph like this (refers to graphic). Instead, flu deaths among the elderly continued to climb. It was hard to believe, so researchers at the National Institutes of Health set out to do a study adjusting for all kinds of factors that could be masking the true benefits of the shots. But no matter how they crunched the numbers, they got the same disappointing result: flu shots had not reduced deaths among the elderly. It’s not what health officials hoped to find. NIH wouldn’t let us interview the study’s lead author. So we went to Boston and found the only co-author of the study not employed by NIH: Dr. Tom Reichert.
Dr. Reichert: “We realized we had incendiary material.”
Dr. Reichert said they thought their study would prove vaccinations helped.
Dr. Reichert: “We were trying to do something mainstream. That’s for sure.”
Sharyl: “Were you surprised?”
Dr. Reichert: “Astonished.”
Sharyl: “Did you check the data a couple of times to make sure?”
Dr. Reichert: “Well, even more than that. We’ve looked at other countries now and the same is true.”
That international study, soon to be published, finds the same poor results in Australia, France, Canada and the UK. And other new research stokes the idea that decades of promoting flu shots in seniors, and the billions spent, haven’t had the desired result. The current head of national immunizations confirms CDC is now looking at new strategies, but stops short of calling the present strategy a failure.
Dr. Anne Schuchat: “There’s an active dialogue about how we can do better to prevent influenza and its complications in the elderly.”
So what’s an older person to do? The CDC says they should still get their flu shots. That it could make the flu less severe or prevent problems not reflected in the total numbers. But watch for CDC to likely shift in the near future more toward protecting the elderly in a roundabout way by pushing to vaccinate more children and others around the who could give them the flu. (Note: the government quickly followed this news with a recommendation to vaccinate children and infants for flu.)


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32 Responses to “Govt. Researchers: Flu Shots Not Effective in Elderly, After All”

  1. Neal B. Forbes
    September 14, 2015 at 11:19 am #

    I would need statistics for this article to be meaningful: 1) how many seniors actually GET the flu and 2) how many die from it? These data would help understand if the vaccine was reducing the incidence of infections. Better prevention is gained by controlling the mechanisms of spread of the virus rather than medications supplied because of suppositions and bias.

    • Keith
      November 11, 2015 at 9:27 am #

      Neal, Ms. Attkisson provided a link to the full Simonsen report containing all the methods, results (including statistics) and conclusions. The report is freely available on the JAMA website, and I recommend that everyone interested in how the government, the media, and health industry promote the flu vaccine read it.

  2. Bob A.
    November 11, 2015 at 8:59 am #

    Flu vaccine is also known to trigger Guillain-Barre syndrome. My 78 year old healthy friend got a flu shot in January, 2015 and developed Guillain-Barre syndrome shortly afterward. As a result, he was paralyzed from the neck down, couldn’t breathe on his own and had to be placed on a respirator. After several weeks, he showed no signs of recovery and died. I’d rather take my chances with the flu.

  3. Porche
    November 11, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    The cochrane review on flu vaccines may interest you

  4. KBG
    November 12, 2015 at 12:40 am #

    Thank you for shedding light upon this matter> I know an RN that works with the elderly who would agree with you but wouldn’t be comfortable sharing her name. xo Please keep speaking the Truth.

  5. Terri
    November 12, 2015 at 2:37 am #

    Thank you for your willingness to speak the truth even when it is not popular.

  6. sam
    November 12, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    If all studies conducted do not show benefits for the elderly do they show benefits for any age group. The results are very serious and disturbing and so are the actions by the government entities charged with protecting our health.
    (1) If they are not effective why are (NIH and CDC) they pushing them for children???
    (2) Why are NIH and CDC pushing these flu shots to anyone after all the studies indicate they are not effective.
    (3) Why hasn’t Congress been involved.

    Ms. Attkisson again excellent reporting!

    • Eliz
      November 13, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

      Exactly, sam! I share your concerns as to whether any flu shot does any good for any age group. The medical profession continues to be wrong. Don’t at butter, oops – eat butter; eat more carbs, oops – sugar (carbs) is toxic; vitamins are useless, oops – take vitamins unless your diet is optimal; let’s get those tonsils out, oops – you need them. It goes on and on.

      November 14, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

      Bottom line. Follow the money (and power). That is always the reason for great evil.

  7. david
    November 13, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    The CDC reports no such findings, though it acknowledges less effectiveness in older adults (and is vague on outcomes). No data reported.

    The “international followup” link is to an abstract if a study that included *both pneumonia and influenza* and similar to the CDC, found that the vaccine was almost totally ineffective, but made no citation for ‘increased’ mortality – only that mortality would return to normal.

    In other words, the vaccine is NOT KILLING THE ELDERLY – it just doesn’t work.

  8. Eliz
    November 13, 2015 at 8:19 pm #

    Dear, did you not see the letter that said read study here. CLick on those letters to read the study. I feel sure that you will find plenty of numbers as to how many were in the study, etc. Be prepared to crunch numbers!

  9. joe
    November 13, 2015 at 11:17 pm #

    Thank you for your reporting. I’m curious if this article was published on Nov 10. 2015, how did Neal Forbes comment on Sept 14th?

  10. Lisa Remmer
    November 15, 2015 at 1:26 am #

    How about the seniors who didn’t get flu shots? How did their death rates compare 20 years ago to the death rates of those who received shots? And more importantly, how did the death rates of the recent 35% who did’t get flu shots compare to those 65% who got the shots? Did the numbers increase at the same % rate or at a lesser or greater rate?

  11. Shoshona Perelman
    November 16, 2015 at 1:07 am #

    Several years ago, as more controversy was swirling around flu shots (should you get one/not get one), and as I read more on the subject, I made the decision to stop getting the shots. This was in spite of me being in relatively poor health (physically disabled with several chronic illnesses), plus having asthma & allergies and aways being told I was “more at risk.”

    Since that time, I’ve yet to get a single case of the flu. I only got the occasional cold (and sometimes bronchitis, which I have a propensity to develop) — but no flu.

    I’ll also note that I’m an older woman — 60 y.o. to be exact — which would put me in the age group fast approaching the designation of being “elderly”…

    I do get concerned opposition from the nurses when I see my Dr around “flu season” — but they always relent & concede when my records back up my flu freedom.

    I have no regrets about my decision, and it is great to feel a little vindication vis-à-vis this article — but even without the article I’ve always felt good about my decision. Everyone should make their own INFORMED decision, then act upon it as they see fit. What works for me may not work for you — and only you can weigh out all the pros & cons, weighed out against all your health & wellness issues.

  12. Kathryn (Kit) Prate
    November 27, 2015 at 6:04 am #

    I made the mistake of allowing my new physician to talk me into taking the multi-strain flu shot, something I’ve voluntarily avoided for years. Three days into the injection I had the flu…explosive diarrhea, nothing — even liquids were staying int my stomach: I was chain balled to the toilet and the barf bucket for more than ten days. I will never do this again. The supposed “prevention” was made me sicker than if I had carried through with my option to not patricipate.

  13. Toto
    November 29, 2015 at 3:56 am #

    I warned my elderly parents not to get a flu vaccine this year. Unfortunately, my 90 year old mother decided to get flu/pneumococcal vaccines while they were at the grocery store. My dad was 93 and still up and about. Two weeks later, after brief cold-like symptoms turned into a chest cough, he took a turn for the worse. We took him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He was put on antibiotics and showed some improvement. Sadly, he died the next day. My mother was sick with a bad cold afterwards, but thankfully, she recovered.

  14. Toto
    December 6, 2015 at 11:25 pm #


    “The live attenuated influenza virus has the reduced ability to replicate in human cells, but can still stimulate immune responses [45,46]. Each year, predictions are made of three potential influenza strains for the coming season, which are based on a continuous worldwide surveillance program by the World Health Organization [42]. However, most influenza vaccines against any predicted seasonal flu provide only modest protection for the given strains, and have little efficacy in the elderly [47,48,49,50]. This is because the influenza vaccine is highly dependent on how well the vaccine strain matches the newly emerging virus.”
    Published online 2015 Jul 29. doi: 10.7774/cevr.2015.4.2.145
    PMCID: PMC4524899
    Application of radiation technology in vaccines development

  15. Toto
    December 6, 2015 at 11:53 pm #


    “Inactivation of viruses and bacterial toxins with formaldehyde for the preparation of vaccines has been a favourite method for most of this century. The Cutter incident in 1955 with poliovaccine focussed attention on the problems accompanying the procedure for inactivating viruses although it had been known since the 1930s that the method was not without its dangers. It had also been known since about the same time that foot-and-mouth disease vaccines prepared in this way could carry residual infectivity. The molecular methods of analysis introduced in the 1970s proved without any doubt that the outbreaks in France in 1981 and in other countries of Western Europe in the 1980s were caused by improperly inactivated vaccines. Recent molecular evidence has now shown that formaldehyde-inactivated Venezuelan equine encephalitis vaccines were the probable cause of the outbreaks of the disease during the 1969-1972 pandemic in Central America.”
    Dev Biol Stand. 1993;81:103-7.
    Review of accidents caused by incomplete inactivation of viruses.
    Brown F1.

  16. Toto
    December 7, 2015 at 12:13 am #

    Did you read about the “CUTTER INCIDENT” in your public school Social Studies text book?

    “In April 1955 more than 200 000 children in five Western and mid-Western USA states received a polio vaccine in which the process of inactivating the live virus proved to be defective. Within days there were reports of paralysis and within a month the first mass vaccination programme against polio had to be abandoned. Subsequent investigations revealed that the vaccine, manufactured by the California-based family firm of Cutter Laboratories, had caused 40 000 cases of polio, leaving 200 children with varying degrees of paralysis and killing 10.”

    J R Soc Med. 2006 Mar; 99(3): 156.
    PMCID: PMC1383764
    The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to a Growing Vaccine Crisis

  17. Toto
    December 7, 2015 at 1:21 am #


    Swann was the original reporter to cover the transfer of an estimated 100,000 CDC documents turned over to Congressman Posey by CDC whistleblower Dr. Thompson. Presumably, these are related to the 2004 coverup of evidence showing a link between autism and vaccines.
    I called congressman Posey’s office the day the documents were sent. His aid confirmed that they had received the documents and they were sent in an UNREDACTED, SEARCHABLE database. I originally asked them to make the database available FOR CITIZENS TO SEARCH AND READ THEMSELVES, according to the laws of INFORMED CONSENT. Obviously, that did not happened.


  18. Seipherd
    November 26, 2016 at 10:45 pm #

    It’s like Global Baloney’s crony cousin in health care… Who could have seen that coming?


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