“The benefits to the general public are nil”

If we think about the anti-vaccine movement, what comes to mind are topics such as conspiratorial people, consumers of homeopathy or enlightened who blame 5G for the crisis coronavirus… But it turns out that there are also doctors in against certain vaccines or, at least, that they are skeptical. One that raises more doubts than certainties for doctors is the flu, whose vaccination campaign It started last week and is currently underway.

“The flu vaccine is one of those with the most buts,” he explains. Javier Padilla, a primary care physician and one of the most prominent voices against this vaccine. “He has not shown have a great use when it comes to reducing mortality or income, it has only been shown in specific groups ”.

This opinion is shared by Roberto Sanchez, family doctor. “There are worse vaccines and better vaccines. Each one has its peculiarities. The flu vaccine has many drawbacks. Leave many serotypes out. Immunity does not last long, it lasts about four or five months. The effectiveness is not very great. It is likely to have little or moderate benefit in risk groups and no benefit in the general population. This is the reality. There are very prestigious publications that are highlighting it ”.

Dr. Javier Padilla.

But the opinions of these two doctors don’t come out of nowhere. There are rigorous studies that have greatly questioned the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. For example, the study The Lancet Infectious Diseases speaks of an efficacy of the vaccine 59%, but only in adults between 18 and 65 years of age. None of the trials met the inclusion criteria for children aged 2 to 17 years or people over 65 years of age.

This percentage of effectiveness is very changing, as is the virus itself: “The effectiveness varies every year. The best years we have an effectiveness around 40 or 50% and in the worst, an effectiveness indistinguishable from placebo”.

The south, no flu

This year is very peculiar in all aspects because of the virus that has changed our lives. This is also affecting the incidence of the flu. To anticipate how serious his attack will be, doctors look at what happened during the winter in the southern hemisphere of the planet. And this year there has hardly been a presence of flu.

“We have known for months that the incidence of influenza in the southern hemisphere this year is extremely low. That is, there is no flu in the southern hemisphere, for protection measures against Covid. The incidence is practically zero in Argentina or Australia ”, explains Sánchez. The southern epidemic, as it is often called, has been placated by coronavirus prevention measures.

A vial of flu vaccine.

A vial of flu vaccine.

Reuters

Despite this, in Spanish health centers many resources are being devoted to the flu vaccine. “These days, seeing the percentage of nursing resources that is dedicated to the flu campaign for two or three months, in a context of high demand and saturation, I think we have a problem”Says Padilla. “I think it should be removed from the health centers. It does not make sense that for three months we have an important part of the primary care nursing assigned to the flu vaccination with which it is falling ”.

Sánchez also considers that the resources that are being dedicated to this campaign are excessive. “It is sold that it is a very good, super effective vaccine, that it is very important that risk groups use it, that health workers have to use it… and there is very little evidence of all this. And we health workers know it. In fact, the coverage rate of toilets does not reach 30%. That would never happen with something like penicillin. The problem is that they move it as if it were a measure that is going to create a great impact and there is a great allocation of resources for these tasks ”.

Other interests?

Sánchez believes that the importance given to the flu vaccination campaign does not precisely meet scientific criteria. “We know that there is an enormous influence of some recognized actors”, he explains and points out: “Sanofi and Seqirus, especially. And now it has been added GSK”. According to the doctor, these companies they pay “a fortune” to entities such as the Spanish Association of Vaccination or the Spanish Association of Pediatrics.

Dr. Roberto Sánchez.

Dr. Roberto Sánchez.

“Make marketing overestimating the positive effects, not talking about the great evidence that there is contradicting a lot of things that have to do with flu vaccination. They do not say that the vaccine does not produce herd immunity, that the vaccination of health workers is very questionable… ”. In addition, says Sánchez, these entities also seek to expand risk groups, for example, “that healthy children are vaccinated.”

“This is what we denounce, basically. It’s not that we are against flu vaccination. ” Sánchez speaks in the plural because he is president of the Platform No thanks an “international civil organization for transparency, integrity, participation and equity in health policies, health care and biomedical research”, in his own words.

This platform is currently one of the most critical voices against the flu vaccine and is made up, for the most part, by health professionals. “Health professionals hardly get vaccinated against the flu,” Sánchez repeats as a major example of how ineffective the vaccine is. “But that is never in the public debate,” he laments.

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