COULD AVOIDING THE FLU SHOT POTENTIALLY MINIMIZE A COVID-19 “SECOND WAVE”?
Did a Chinese flu vaccine mandate in Fall 2019 ignite the COVID-19 crisis which closed the world?

By Kevin Barry, Esq. and Dr. Cammy Benton
First Freedoms, August 20, 2020

The global economy has been largely shut down now for six months now in ways unprecedented in modern history. In order to get back to normal, and in order to avoid a crisis like the current one from ever happening again, it is required to determine how we got here.  We recognize this is an issue which critics may consider “correlation vs causation”, however, frequently where there is smoke, there is fire, and it is appropriate to collect relevant data.  Before implementing further public health policies changes, such as flu shot mandates, we need to investigate these concerns.

What happened in China and Italy in late 2019 early 2020?

In the fall of 2019, China conducted a massive influenza vaccine drive ahead of the “peak flu season” in China, which ordinarily occurs during December and January.  An October 31, 2019 article states that targets for the authoritarian flu shot mandate included “the elderly, patients of chronic diseases and medical workers.” (1)  Shortly after the flu vaccination campaign in China, COVID-19 emerged.

We now know the devastating effects COVID-19 had on the elderly and on patients with chronic disease in countries all over the world.

Through a process known as viral interference, a vaccine can create an opportunity for one virus to thrive while aiming to protect a person against another virus. There is strong circumstantial evidence for this phenomenon occurring where receiving a prior influenza vaccine creates an increased susceptibility for coronaviruses. A similar effect was seen in studies involving children in New York City (2018), children in Hong Kong (2012) and adults in the US military (2019).

The US Military (2019)

In a paper published online in the journal Nature on October 10, 2019, a researcher with the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch Air Force Satellite, reported that receiving an influenza vaccine made individuals 36% more susceptible to coronaviruses. COVID-19 was not circulating during the time period of the study, but it is in the family of coronaviruses.

The study’s author concluded that the increased susceptibility to coronavirus was “vaccine derived”: 

“Examining non-influenza viruses specifically, the odds of both coronavirus and human metapneumovirus in vaccinated individuals (with the flu shot) were significantly higher when compared to unvaccinated individuals (OR = 1.36 and 1.51, respectively)”
Conclusions:
“… Examining virus interference by specific respiratory viruses showed mixed results. Vaccine derived virus interference was significantly associated with coronavirus and human metapneumovirus …” (2)

The author of the study later wrote a letter to the editor of the journal Vaccine in an attempt to distance his study from an association with the COVID-19 coronavirus. (3) However, his study remains one of many which provide strong circumstantial evidence of an association between influenza vaccine and becoming ill from coronaviruses. 

Children in New York City ages 5-17 (2018)

In 2018, researchers from Columbia University published the results of a study involving 999 people (approximately ⅔ children, ⅓ adults) which tracked participants through three influenza seasons from 2013-16 in order to investigate the effects of influenza vaccination. The study found that the influenza vaccine was effective at protecting against influenza strains in the vaccine, but that there was an “increase in the hazard” of developing non-influenza Acute Respiratory Illnesses (ARI’s), like coronaviruses.

“… Throughout all study seasons, the most prevalent non-influenza ARI (Acute Respiratory Illness) pathogens detected were rhinovirus/enterovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, and coronaviruses …  Among children there was an increase in the hazard of ARI caused by non-influenza respiratory pathogens post-influenza vaccination compared to unvaccinated children during the same period. Potential mechanisms for this association warrant further investigation.” (4)

The Columbia study also noted that “potential mechanisms for this association (increased hazard of ARI after a flu shot) warrant further investigation”. We agree that additional research into virus interference caused by vaccination is critically important and government leaders must order this research be done.

Hong Kong Children ages 6-15 (2012)

In 2012, researchers in Hong Kong also reported an increased risk for non influenza respiratory viruses in children after receiving a flu shot, also potentially due to the phenomenon of viral interference.

“… We identified a statistically significant increased risk of noninfluenza respiratory virus infection among TIV (Trivalent Influenza Vaccine) recipients … The phenomenon of virus interference has been well known in virology for > 60 years. Ecological studies have reported phenomena potentially explained by viral interference. Nonspecific immunity against non influenza respiratory viruses was reported in children for 1–2 weeks after receipt of live attenuated influenza vaccine …” (5)

If the flu shot confers specific immunity to the strains which are included in a vaccine, but also impairs non-specific immunity to other respiratory viruses like coronaviruses, the flu shot may not be worth the risk while COVID-19 is circulating.

Are 2019 flu shot campaigns in China, Italy and in Nursing Homes partly responsible for the initially high death rates in those populations?

In Italy, flu shots are free for those over 65 and for those with chronic illness. Italy has a rapidly aging population, and, in early 2019, Italy increased its economic ties with China by becoming the first G7 nation to join China’s Silk Road project. For Italy, the combination of providing flu shots to senior citizens and the chronically ill just ahead of COVID-19 emerging in Wuhan may have led to a perfect storm.  According to Italy’s health authority, 99% of those in Italy who died from bacterial pneumonia had a pre-existing condition.  (6,7,8)

In China and in Italy, prior influenza vaccination may have caused an increased susceptibility to coronaviruses shortly before COVID-19 emerged. The flu vaccination campaigns potentially lead to catastrophic consequences to senior citizens and the chronically ill with pre-existing conditions.

What about the recent Brazilian study which claims flu shots can protect against COVID-19?

Some noise has been made about this study suggesting the need to further enforce influenza vaccination rates because it could protect against COVID-19. (9)  We do not subscribe to this view for the following reasons: 

1) The study is not peer-reviewed.
2) The study population was all severely ill, with an astonishing mortality rate of 47%, and was hence not representative of the population as a whole. Consequently, the study does not rule out the possibility that vaccinated subjects were more likely to be ill enough to be part of the study population. This is a type of “selection bias.”
3) Vaccination status was not confirmed by medical records but instead was determined by patients answering a question on a form.
4) The vaccination status of more than 60% of the subjects was not known, casting doubt on whether enough information existed to represent the study population.
5) The education attainment of more than 66% of the subjects was not known, casting doubt on whether enough information existed to control for that potential confounder.
6) The population under age 30 should have been left out of the analysis. The study states, “Mortality was consistently lower among influenza vaccinated patients across all age groups, with absolute mortality differences ranging from a risk difference of 17% pts in the 10-19 age group to a risk difference of 3% pts in the 90+ age group. This difference was statistically significant (p-value < 0.05) for all age groups over 30.” Because the study did not have enough statistical power to detect a significant difference in those under age 30, those data should have been excluded. Indeed, figure 2 shows that when the younger group is excluded, there is no statistical difference in outcomes in subjects 60 or older who were vaccinated before the onset of symptoms.

In other words, this is not reliable data.

How should these events in China, Italy and elsewhere inform influenza vaccination policy in the United States?

The extent that prior influenza vaccination is a risk factor is unknown at this time. This question requires immediate research. Did getting a flu shot make people more likely to develop a serious illness (or death) after exposure to COVID-19? The answers to these questions will be data-driven. Nations must review the medical records of those who died to determine whether or not a prior flu shot increased risk of serious illness or death.

As a retired American pediatrician wrote in a response to the British Medical Journal, “to investigate this possibility (of a connection to flu vaccine), a case-control study is in order as we study and care for the victims of covid-19. Influenza vaccines have become sacred cows in some quarters, but they shouldn’t be.” (10)

We agree with this view. Until this critical data is collected and analysed independently, we urge policy makers to reconsider flu vaccination mandates. Out of an abundance of caution, individuals may also choose to reevaluate the flu shot this year to do their part to possibly help minimize the impact of a potential “second wave”.

Kevin Barry is an attorney in New York with Mermigis Law Group and is President of www.firstfreedoms.org

Dr. Cammy Bention, MD, ABIHM. IFMCP is a Founding Director of Physicians for Informed Consent. She practices at Benton Integrative Medicine in Huntersville, North Carolina.

REFERENCES

1.  China urges flu vaccination for high-risk groups (October 31, 2019)
http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-10/30/c_138515714.htm

2.  Influenza vaccination and respiratory virus interference among Department of Defense personnel during the 2017–2018 influenza season Greg G.Wolff, Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch Air Force Satellite, 2510 5th Street, Bldg 840, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433, United States.  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X19313647

3. Greg Wolff, Letter to the Editor:  https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0264410X20304862?token=CC81974342E7DAC8ACABF2AF14A4FC9B66426A4B7CF046436A7AA82ED5BF6775E282596A708D50533D76C4939CFADEEF

4. Assessment of temporally-related acute respiratory illness following influenza vaccination (2018)  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29525279/

5. Increased Risk of Noninfluenza Respiratory Virus Infections Associated With Receipt of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine (2012)
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22423139/

6.  Everything You Need To Know About The Flu Shot In Italy (January 13, 2020)
https://www.doctorsinitaly.com/b/flu-shot/

7.  Italy joins China’s New Silk Road project (March 23, 2019)
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47679760

8.  99% of Those Who Died From Virus Had Other Illness, Italy Says (March 18, 2020)
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-18/99-of-those-who-died-from-virus-had-other-illness-italy-says

9. Research suggests protective effect of influenza vaccine against COVID-19 severity and mortality (Jul5, 5, 2020)
https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200705/Research-suggests-protective-effect-of-influenza-vaccine-against-COVID-19-severity-and-mortality.aspx

10. Flu shots and the risk of coronavirus infections (March 2, 2020)
https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m810/rr-0