The flu vaccine is probably useless

I read a New York Times article talking about the importance of getting a flu shot and, given the source, immediately suspected that the opposite is true.  Turns out I was right.

The CDC says that last year, the effectiveness of the flu shot was less than 40%, and the year before that, it was only 14% effective.  That's astonishingly low.

Just think if your polio or tetanus vaccination were only 14% reliable.  You'd think something is wrong.  Vaccines are not supposed to have such low rates of effectiveness.

The problem is that the flu mutates every year and becomes something slightly different.  The companies that make the vaccine base their vaccine on last year's flu, which is already gone.  They try to tinker with last year's flu to guess what this year's flu will be like, but they are often wrong, hence the low effectiveness rate.

But I wonder if the effectiveness rate might be even lower – say, zero percent.  That's because when measuring "effectiveness" of the vaccine, they are measuring only who is vaccinated and doesn't catch the flu.  Many people have natural immunity and would not get the flu regardless of whether they are vaccinated.

In one randomized double-blind experiment, those who got the flu shot caught the flu at almost the same rate and suffered symptoms almost the same length of time as those who didn't get the flu shot, and the slight differences between the two group were so small that they could have been explained by random chance.

Another study claims that the flu shot is actually harmful, causing a 550% increase in respiratory infections over those who don't get the flu shot.  I don't know if I believe that the flu shot actually causes illnesses, but it seems pretty clear that the flu shot doesn't prevent people from getting the flu.

What, then, is the purpose of the flu shot and the government's constant nagging to get one?  I believe that this is about the government pretending it is "doing something" about the flu to look effective.  The companies who make the useless vaccine also profit from people using it, so there may be some collusion as well.

In reality, it is not the responsibility of the government to cure us of diseases and push medicines on us; leave that to the private sector.  For now, at least, the flu shot looks like a giant fraud perpetrated just to make you think the government is on top of the problem, and their patronizing appeals for us to care about our own "wellness," a liberal word I despise, are all the more annoying as they push their placebo shots on the general population.

Ed Straker is the senior writer at