Researchers Question Flu Vaccine Safety

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flu vaccine(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Every year the government pushes people to get the annual flu shot. But should they?

Maybe not -- and especially not for young children, according to experts from the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). They point to recent studies revealing the medical evidence simply isn't there to suggest the flu shot is truly safe or effective for either children or adults, and it may be causing real harm in young kids.

The study comes from the Cochrane Collaboration, which gathers research conducted in specific areas and analyzes it for scientific reliability and validity. In this case, the investigators found most of the studies published on the flu shot were flawed in some manner. Of chief concern, the studies were generally observational in nature rather than randomized. In observational studies, researchers watch a group of people to see how they fare. In randomized studies, researchers compare carefully matched groups -- one of which received a treatment and one of which didn't -- to come up with their findings.

NVIC doctors particularly criticize a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that concluded the vaccine was safe for young children. That study was a non-randomized analysis of the medical records of children ages 6 months to 23 months who received the flu shot. The NVIC reports it concluded the vaccine was safe, but the Cochrane investigators found so many flaws in the study they believe the finding cannot be trusted.

"Vaccine studies are using increasingly complex statistical techniques rather than time-tested research designs," reports National Vaccine Information Center Health Policy Analyst Vicky Debold, R.N., Ph.D. "The JAMA study is exactly the type of study criticized by the Cochrane Collaboration. There were so many limitations and exclusions in the study design that it is nearly impossible to interpret or replicate the findings. The true effect of the influenza vaccine on health outcomes cannot be identified in this single, flawed study, which should not be used as evidence that influenza vaccine is safe for infants and toddlers or to justify national vaccine policies."

source - The National Vaccine Information Center