This Is Why I Get the Flu Shot. ~ Lauren Grantz, PharmD

Via Lauren Grantz
on Oct 24, 2013
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Photo Credit: Pixoto

“A bit of science distances one from God, but much science nears one to him. The more I study nature the more I am amazed at the work of the Creator.”

~ Louis Pasteur

In the late winter of 2006 I had both the fortunate and unfortunate opportunity to be part of a medical team in the Intensive Care Unit of Albert Einstein Hospital. Every morning for five weeks I would wake up before the rest of the city, scrape the frost off my car and get to the hospital before dawn to monitor the medication profiles of the patients assigned to me.

Many times I would get there and at least three would have passed away over night. It was the most mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting time of pharmacy school.

There was one patient that was in the ICU for the entire five weeks that I was on that medical team. He was a 55-year-old guy a year and a half out from a successful kidney transplant. After a transplant, in order for your body to be able to keep the organ, you must take medications that suppress your immune system (immunosuppressants). This makes you more susceptible to all kinds of illnesses.

This particular fellow was in the ICU on a ventilator from complications of Influenza A- mainly pneumonia. The added stress on his body was making the transplanted kidney reject—he was screwed. This was an eye opener for me to realize how detrimental the flu can be on a person’s health. Although, at the time, it wasn’t enough to convince me to get an annual flu shot. After all, I was in my mid-twenties and healthy so why should I?

Before I go on, I think it’s important that you know a little bit of background about moi (that’s French for me).

First off, I’m sort of a science geek. Don’t let my cool disposition fool you. Inside I am bleeding Amy Farah Fowler. I took every science class that my high school offered. Even though I was accepted into college before my senior year I still maxed out my credits with genetics, advanced chemistry and intro to microbiology.

After what seemed like a never ending onslaught of information, classes and labs, I obtained my doctorate of pharmacy in 2007. During those years I studied the human body and it’s chemistry incessantly. While not required, I furthered my education to be able to administer vaccines, biologicals and other injectables in the state of Pennsylvania.

My area of expertise is Herpes Zoster (Shingles). The continuing education requirements that I complete every two years are almost entirely related to infectious disease and I’m a participant in the Merck adult vaccination program.

I put all of my knowledge to use on a daily basis at an outpatient pharmacy for a very large local health system. I also manage a team of seven pharmacists, fourteen pharmacy technicians and three medical supply specialists. Every Lauren Grantz Small Yogaday I am in contact with newborn babies, children, the elderly, those with cancer, those with HIV, pre and post-transplant patients, those that just had major surgeries, and others.

I also am a practitioner and student of yoga. I’ve kept up with a daily, well almost daily, Ashtanga practice for nearly five years. While furthering my study of yoga my philosophy towards my pharmacy practice has changed for the better.

I’ve been independently studying alternative forms of medicine for the past few years. I now believe that pain can be controlled through various non-pharmacologic modalities, diabetes can be eliminated with modifications of the diet, heart disease can be eradicated with exercise and a grain based diet, and blood pressure can decrease with a few safe-breathing techniques.

Now don’t get me wrong, medications are obviously still needed, but they are often a short-term fix for a long-term problem. Studying yoga has also encouraged me to think about why I’m really here, as in on this Earth, and what I can be doing for the so-called “greater good” of humanity.

Whatever major contribution I’ll make is still undetermined. Maybe I’ll have a daughter that finds the cure of Cancer or HIV. But until then, I’ll reduce, reuse and recycle as much as I can, give to charity, and as the pharmacist’s oath says, “I will consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concerns.”

This is going somewhere, I promise.

Yoga practitioners have their own Code of Conduct, a set of morals and ethics, which eerily resembles that of pharmacists, doctors and nurses. We all strive to abide by these rules, which are wide open to self-interpretation.

The first moral quality we learn about in Yoga is Ahimsa. It is a Sanskrit word meaning non-violence. To further it’s definition one can say that Ahimsa is a quality that develops out of love for all living things. Without going deeper into the cosmic hippy fluff, after all this is a blog post not a dissertation, this is why I choose to get a flu shot.

I’m a healthy person. I eat well and I’m in excellent shape. I have no diseases or illnesses. I have an immune system of steel. If I were to get an infection or a virus my body will most likely be able to fight it off on it’s own. However, I’m in constant contact with those not as fortunate in the health department as I am.

In my own opinion, for me not to get a flu shot is one of the most selfish things I can do as a pharmacist. The other is to not donate blood.

I don’t get the shot for me, I get it for you.

I think that there are a lot of misconceptions about vaccinations, especially the flu vaccine. One that isn’t really SickChildspoken about anywhere is that there is this automatic assumption that just because a needle is being jabbed into your arm that you’re protecting yourself from getting sick. While this may or may not be true, it’s in the numbers.

There is a concept called “herd immunity” which applies to both animals and humans. Essentially it means that there is strength in numbers. The more people that get vaccinated the less of a chance the virus or other pathogen can infect a community. This is how life-threatening diseases are eradicated. Small pox anyone?

There are high-risk populations out there that rely on other people to get vaccinated to protect them since they either can’t get vaccinated or the protection is extremely limited from their own compromised immune system. I’m not talking about those that choose to be unhealthy. I’m talking about those with cancer, HIV, organ transplants, other immunocompromised disease states, allergies to the vaccine, newborns and the elderly.

I’m probably not going to die from the flu if I get it, but they can. This is a very difficult message to deliver.

Then there are the safety concerns. “But vaccines contain this that and the other thing.” I can confidently tell you that the amounts of these trace additives used to purify and make the vaccine safe are so small that you probably are at more risk for exposure to carcinogens at the nail salon or the bedding department at Macy’s. Not to mention the single-dose vaccines are preservative-free, so your woes about Thimerosal can be kicked to the curb.

It takes your body almost three weeks to develop a full response to the flu vaccine. This is why it’s important to get your shot as early as you can in the season. This is also why there is a fallacy that the flu vaccine causes the flu.

Most people wait to get their shot until the flu season is in full swing. There is exposure to the virus before the vaccine and your immune system have had a chance to do their dance. The vaccine covers three types of influenza “strains.” Because the flu is a virus, it is constantly changing (antigenic shift) which is the main reason the vaccine’s efficacy is around 60%—which is very good considering it’s a virus.

There is always going to be a surgence of a strain that wasn’t included in the annual vaccine, but it’s not common. However this contributes to the lower percentage of its efficacy.

Healthy adults can possibly infect others beginning 1 day before flu symptoms develop and up to 7 days after becoming symptomatic. Children can pass along the virus even after 7 days. Flu symptoms usually start 1 to 3 days after the virus infects the body. This means that you may be contagious and can infect someone else without even knowing you are sick.

According to the CDC these populations should be vaccinated first: kiddos 6 months-5 years old, anyone 50 years old or older, adults and kids with asthma, lung, heart, kidney, liver, brain, blood, or metabolic disorders, those who are immunosuppressed, pregnant women, children on long-term aspirin therapy, nursing home residents, Native Americans, the morbidly obese, all health-care personnel, and household contacts with any of the afore mentioned groups.

According to me I think the recommendations should extend to anyone in the service industry such as food service, hospitality and any other professions that could potentially be in contact with a high-risk person as well as the school system and those who travel internationally.

There are lots of vaccines available this season. I’m not an expert on all of them, but I can tell you that I recommend Afluria pre-fill for adults (that’s what I got and give out), and Fluzone pre-fill for the kiddos. I have not had a chance to study FluBlok yet. FluBlok is a new formulation that is not made with eggs or antibiotics.

Choosing to vaccinate or not to vaccinate is a completely personal decision and should only be made by you. Everything in life has risks and benefits. It’s up to you to determine and evaluate them. Many of you sought out my opinion on the subject since I’m a unique blend of western and eastern medical philosophies. I’m fairly certain my opinion may not have been what you wanted to hear. But you know what they say about opinions…

Regardless of what you decide to do this flu season, wash your hands often, drink lots of water, take Vitamin C, wash your hands often, get lots of rest, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, wash your hands often, stay home from work or school if you get sick and eat as much pumpkin flavored things as you can get your washed hands on! (because they are delicious)

Be Well and Wash Your Hands. ♥

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Assist Ed: Dana Gornall/Ed: Sara Crolick

Photo Credit: Pixoto


About Lauren Grantz

Since graduating in 2007 with a doctorate in pharmacy, Lauren Grantz has managed to work her way up the corporate pharmacy ladder to a proverbial corner office with a big window and a paycheck to match. While this sounds fantastic, she struggles daily with the lack of care people have to take control of themselves without drugs. She has a daily ashtanga yoga practice that keeps her body fit and her mind whole. The deeper she goes in the practice, the more possibilities she sees lay before her. She is hoping that through her study of yoga and knowledge of western medicine, she can pave a road for herself to truly make a difference in people’s lives. She loves to travel and share her adventures through photography. She has an unconditional love for coffee, old bookstores, the beach, her baby blanket, a good writing pen, I Love Lucy reruns, her family, her fiance and close friends. You can follow her blog at


33 Responses to “This Is Why I Get the Flu Shot. ~ Lauren Grantz, PharmD”

  1. A. Wilson says:

    I really appreciate your post. I agree with you. I work with vulnerable populations and it is my responsibility to those around me to get a flu shot. <3 Thank you for this wonderful

  2. lgrantz says:

    Thank you! xo

  3. Miranda Rose Vineyard says:

    After reading that entire article along with EVERY SINGLE comment, I'm definitely more inclined to NOT get vaccinated.

    I DO fully realize I'm not professionally "educated" on the subject manner you personally spent a lot of money on and mind numbing hours learning. I respect you and your view point. Many, many blessings to you. <3

  4. lgrantz says:

    Thanks Miranda! Be well! 🙂

  5. Dixie says:

    Vaccines save lives!

  6. Don Salmon says:

    Dear Lauren:

    This is a lovely article in terms of how it's written, but completely useless in terms of helping guide us through the controversy. You write as if anybody with sufficient knowledge agrees it's good to get a flu shot Unfortunately, the latest thing I heard was from 3 very mainstream and very intelligent doctors – MDs, you know – who vociferously warned against the flue shot, particularly for those over 50, as they had studied research (you know, the complicated kind you implicitly refer to that only people with Ph.Ds in pharmacology can understand).

    There is somehow the implication that learned people with advanced degrees imply know these things and the rest of us should just follow. Unfortunately, I've spoken to MDs and Ph.Ds in pharmacology who say things that a few hours of research would show are not true.

    My doctorate is in psychology, so I don't have expertise in the area of drugs. But I have spent 10 years studying hypertension treatment (for 3 years had 160/100, stopped meds cold – against all doctors' orders – because I felt like I had the flu all the time -and within 5 days the numbers dropped to average 142/86 and stayed there for a year until I started on meds again, and within 2 months was at the ER, first with 190/120 then 230/130; story goes on regarding my personal BP but that's not what this is about).

    I've heard many doctors and pharmacists say things like, "well, the research shows that arteries just naturally became less "elastic" as you get older, so it's natural for BP to rise." Not only is this not true, but every research study I've seen for the past 10 years says just the opposite (sort of – if you give two people a horrible diet and keep them from exercise, it's true BP will rise as you get older, but that's not what these doctors and Ph.D. pharmacists are saying)

    I won't go into the many other things that these experts say that are not true. To get back to your topic, there are mainstream – not quack – experts with more years of experience than you, and more important, ones who actually conduct (mainstream!) research who disagree with you.

    I'm not saying you're necessarily wrong and they're right, but the fact that you don't even hint that there's another point of view (and particularly worrisome is the fact that you are on some corporate ladder and dont' even think to mention that there might be even a whisper of a conflict of interest) is, well, seems to be, possibly on conflict with at least one if not more yam as (and would seem to interfere with the development of some niyamas also.)

    So, would it be possible ot hear a balanced presentation of (mainstream) views? Is it really possible that you've never seen in any of the research you've reviewed, some sensible, objective, non-hysterical, non-quack researcher who is not quite as convinced of the pure effectiveness of flu vaccines as you appear to be in this article?


  7. I think you did a fantastic job. I've also written about vaccines and this is a tough crowd in that arena. Well done.

    (Love, a pharmacist's daughter and a woman who gets the flu vaccine.)

  8. lgrantz says:

    Hello Don! Thanks for the feedback. So to make things clear this is just a personal account of my own experiences, reasons and opinions as to why I get the flu vaccine myself. Every year I get bombarded with questions from friends about the flu shot, most being the yoga type, and can't wrap their head around why I get it. This addresses their questions to me. This article was no way intended to convince anyone to get vaccinated. That is a completely personal decision and should be made by the individual after a lot of personal research and conversation with their physician. There are people out their that are far more educated than me giving their opinions as well. If I didn't work with the public, I'm not sure what I would do. Maybe I would still get the shot, maybe I wouldn't. So because this is about my own experience, where I am right now, I won't offer a balanced presentation for you. You'll have to keep on looking for one- I'm sure there are many out there.

    I'm a firm believer as well that diet and exercise can control blood pressure as well as other co-morbidities. No matter what research says, I saw it first hand in my 80 year old grandmother. She was on 10+ meds and insulin when she moved in with my family. Two years of diet an exercise got rid of half the meds, and in 2 more years she was off insulin.
    So kudos to you for being able to stop your meds!

    Be Well,

  9. gdr23 says:

    Solidly agree.

  10. don salmon says:

    Hey thanks Lauren. I'm new to Elephant Journal and had assumed this was more of an objective reporter's post. Sounds great like you've made your personal decision. I had also assumed that this was partly directed at the typical left-leaning New Age audience the reflexively (reactively??) rejects vaccines. I've gotten a number of vaccines and other medical interventions I've found helpful. It's just that most winters I don't get the flu, and at least half the 7 or 8 times i did get a flu vaccine, I got particularly bad flus. no control group – just for me, doesn't seem to make sense. Glad it works for others!

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

  11. JC Peters says:

    Thanks for posting this. Sometimes the alternative health community will jump down your throat for being willing to take the flu shot–I'm always embarrassed at my little circular bandaid when I get the flu shot when I go in to teach. The funny thing is, the main reason I get is is BECAUSE i teach yoga: I'm surrounded by people in various stages of health and life, and I'm touching them all the time. The last thing I want to do is pass on the flu virus to someone whose body can't support it. Ahimsa, I agree.

  12. Debate108 says:

    The health organizations of our government have not been reliable in the area of vaccines, because they have long been in the arms of the vaccine companies and big Pharma. So what we have today is a rosy picture for the effectiveness of vaccines. However, a growing number of doctors have begun to see the thorn in that rose—namely, that most vaccines do NOT prevent disease and are NOT safe.

    So why haven't we heard more about the dangers? As is often the case in controversial areas, researchers who have come forward with real scientific evidence have been fired from their positions, demoted and/or attacked.

    Even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been compromised by the vaccine industry. Several years ago they finally conceded the first vaccine-autism case. Researchers from John Hopkins U. and Genetic Centers of America proved the dishonesty of public health officials who continually denied a link between autism and Thimerosal (mercury) in vaccines. The Vaccine Compensation Act has already compensated over 2,000 individuals who proved that they were harmed by vaccines, resulting in settlements of nearly two billion dollars. 

    In 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Government Reform Committee, after a 3.5-year investigation, concluded that Thimerosal caused the autism epidemic and that the FDA and health authorities were guilty of “institutional malfeasance” in covering it up. 

    Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific/medical articles from some the world’s best universities have implicated Thimerosal in vaccines as a causal factor in neurodevelopmental disorders including autism. They have shown that adding low levels of Thimerosal to certain blood, brain, eye, immune, liver and/or muscle cells can induce cell death.

    Yet today, despite being banned in Europe and restricted in 7 U.S. states, Thimerosal-containing flu vaccines are still recommended for routine administration to pregnant women and infants, with little or no warning of the presence of this known poison in these and other vaccines. 

    And perhaps even worse is the substitute now being used in place of mercury—aluminum, a well-documented neurotoxin. Two-month old babies now receive 1,225 mcg of aluminum from their vaccines — 50 times higher than safety levels! Although the FDA, CDC and World Health Organization are aware of the dangers, they expect parents to play Russian roulette with their children.

    Recent evidence shows that flu shots are causing Alzheimers disease, most likely as a result of combining mercury with aluminum, formaldehyde, and MSG.

    Other serious, and potentially deadly, adverse reactions to the flu vaccine include joint inflammation and arthritis, anaphylactic shock (and other life-threatening allergic reactions), and Guillain-Barre syndrome, a paralytic autoimmune disease.

    And, in the case of Tamiflu, thousands of cases of abnormal behavior, neuropsychiatric problems like convulsions, delirium or delusions, and brain infections, have been reported.

  13. Debate108 says:

    More and more studies show that flu vaccines DO NOT provide any benefit:

    A study published in October of 2006, in the British Medical Journal concluded that the effectiveness of annual flu shots has been exaggerated, and that in reality they have little or no effect on influenza campaign objectives, including reducing the number of hospital stays, time off work, and death from influenza and its complications.

    Citing the British studies as well as methodological flaws in the vaccine study published in the Oct 25 issue of JAMA, the National Vaccine Information Center is now calling on the CDC to stop recommending annual flu shots for all infants and children until methodologically sound studies are conducted.

    Preventing flu-related deaths in the elderly is still the primary argument for recommending  flu shots each year.  According to the theory of herd immunity, we are told that a majority of the population must be vaccinated in order to protect the lives of the elderly and other categories of people susceptible to flu-related complications.

    Yet as shown in a 2005 study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine there is no support for the use of flu vaccine to prevent deaths in the elderly. It reported that although immunization rates in people over 65 have increased dramatically in the past 20 years, there has not been a consequent decline in flu-related deaths.

    More studies:
    A recent study published in the October 2008 issue of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found that vaccinating young children against the flu had no impact on flu-related hospitalizations or doctor visits during two recent flu seasons. The researchers concluded that "significant influenza vaccine effectiveness could not be demonstrated for any season, age, or setting" examined.

    A study published in the Lancet just two months ago found that influenza vaccination was NOT associated with a reduced risk of pneumonia in older people. Vaccination coverage among the elderly increased from 15 percent in 1980 to 65 percent now, yet there has been no decrease in deaths from influenza or pneumonia.

    That Lancet study supports a similar study done five years ago, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which concluded that vaccination against pneumonia does not reduce your risk of contracting the disease. 

    Research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine last month also confirms that there has been no decrease in deaths from influenza and pneumonia, despite the fact that vaccination coverage among the elderly has increased from 15 percent in 1980 to 65 percent now.

    Last year, researchers with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Institutes of Health published this conclusion in the Lancet Infectious Diseases: We conclude that frailty selection bias and use of non-specific endpoints such as all-cause mortality have led cohort studies to greatly exaggerate vaccine benefits.

    A large-scale, systematic review of 51 studies, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2006, found no evidence that the flu vaccine is any more effective than a placebo in children. The studies involved 260,000 children, age 6 to 23 months.

    To summarize, for most people, the flu shot does not prevent illness, but weakens your immune system and makes you more predisposed to the illness. The people who actually die after contracting the flu do so because they are already sick and have compromised immune systems.

    We now have the worst overall national health in the world, the most birth defects, learning and behavior problems, chronic/degenerative disease, and filth diseases are making a comeback among the vaccinated more than not. Our water and food supplies are contaminated. Antibiotics and other "miracle drugs' are creating super germs, and people are allowing this toxic vaccines in the unprotected bloodstreams of innocent children.

    It's way past time to turn this around.

  14. lgrantz says:

    Thank You!!! 🙂

  15. lgrantz says:

    Thank YOU for taking the time to read it. I can't tell you how much I had to endure in my circle of yoga friends after I wrote this! It's as if getting the flu shot is the equivalent of shooting heroin.
    Be Well!

  16. don salmon says:

    It will be interesting to see where this goes.

  17. don salmon says:

    I guess another question, Lauren, is how much research you've conducted. Expert knowledge in pharmacology – as you evidently do have – is one thing. research experience (not just studying research in class) is another. I remember reading about research for years and being so impressed by how, well, scientific it all was. When I actually started conducted research I was astonished to see how loose it was, and how easy it was to get the results you want by slightly altering the questions you ask and the statistical methods used. I'm not meaning to even vaguely imply this necessarily involves conscious deception (though in the medical field where big pharma is involved, surely Marcia Angell deserves some respect for her testimony in this regard?)

    Do you know that at a minimum, 46% of mainstream physics experiments have never been replicated. And a greater number of physics experiments – involving long proven theories – fail when replication is attempted.

    I probably shouldn't go on or I'll be accused of being anti scientific. I'm a scientist, so I hope that label isn't thrown at me. It's just that when results are presented in black and white terms, as they appear to be in this article (and in the TM response – it seems the only possible position on this page is either all vaccines are good and yoga students are a bunch of anti intellectual new age woo woo quoting pinheads; or all vaccines are bad and we should just leave modern science behind and accept the Vedic seer's account of things.

    Does anybody here have a balanced position, reasonable, logical, moderate?

  18. lgrantz says:

    Thanks for the comments. It sounds like you're a very passionate anti-vaccine advocate. While you quote very reputable studies. after all I am a scientist too, I respectfully disagree that the flu shot does not prevent illness. Until there is a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial in humans with the same strain of flu, we can't know how effective the vaccine actually is.
    I wish you the best of health!

  19. lgrantz says:


  20. lgrantz says:

    Unfortunately, my own research experiments are very few. As I said in the above response to our passionate anti-vaccine fellow, until there is a double blind placebo controlled trial in humans using the same strain of the flu, we will never truly know it's effectiveness. It's impossible. And like you said, to recreate results is even more impossible, since you will never be able to have identical conditions to conduct them in, unless you do the study across generations like The Framingham Study. And it's even more impossible with the flu vaccine since its a virus.
    I do know how loose scientific experiments are. If you look at the confidence intervals of vaccine studies, the range is often huge.
    I honestly think that there is this self-judgement people in the yoga/new age/holistic/insert other term here have in regards to the way they are to accept certain western/scientfic/political ways of thinking and acting. It's as though they have to fit a specific mold in order to be a practitioner of yoga. Just as an example, when I posted this Flu Shot article on facebook, I received 5 separate personal messages from my "yoga" facebook friends that they totally agree with me and were so happy that I support vaccinations and they get vaccinated too, and blah blah blah, but didn't want the rest of the people on facebook to see that they support it because it's "un-yogi like."
    It's as though some deity they believe in is going to come down from the heavens and throw lightening bolts at them if they touch western medicine. Mind you, these are the same people that think it's ok to take massive amounts of NSAIDS before an intense asana practice (I have a whole othr opinionated article in the works on this subject). Sorry, I could go on and on.

    On the contrary, I don't believe all vaccines are good. As of right now I am completely against Gardasil because there have been too many incidences of death in young women after vaccination, and two of my young employees had HPV tests come up as a false positive after the three shot series. I think more research needs to be done before I am a supporter of that one.
    Regardless, I've gotten a flu shot five years in a row with no problem, have never had flu-like symptoms, and I've been healthy as one can be. For right now, that's all the evidence I need. 🙂

  21. don salmon says:

    Ok, I just want to add something here in the name of balance. I understand (1) this is Elephant Journal; and (2) it is probably a good thing for you to write a "pro-science" article here because – and I totally agree with you – there are WAY to many people in the New Age yoga circuits who are just as anti science as the creationists I used to talk to in Greenville SC before – thankfully – moving 60 miles north and 3 universes away to Asheville, NC ("keep Asheville weird" – a slogan we share with Austin, TX, just like the neo confederate governers we share as well).

    Ok, I get it. And in that sense, I have no argument with you. If someone is going along with the "vaccines aren't good for you because it's not hip, holistic and "Spiritual" enough" – well, your article is a rational, reasonable breath of fresh air.

    Yes, I think I get it.

    Unfortunately, Elephant Journal has a very wide readership, and I'd like to think that some people among the readership are already reasonable people who like to read balanced articles. For them, your article was not balanced – that's all I'm saying. I have looked at the confidence intervals in vaccine studies, and if you factor out the ones published in most American medical journals (i'm sorry, the rational, reasonable evidence for overwhelming bias in most American medical journals is, well, to quite you, "huge"). If you go just across the pond, to the Lancet (not what you would think of as "yoga/new age/holistic/inert other term here", I would guess), there's much more balance in reporting the pros and cons of vaccination. If you go a bit further geographically, you'll find more evidence as well.

    I'll give you an example from my own field. When I was in a doctorate program in the 1990s, everyone under the sun was convinced that medication was by far superior to any non-medical therapy for depression. By 2000, studies had been uncovered (that were quite deliberately hidden by drug companies) showing shoddy research almost across the board (note that your claim of huge confidence intervals in studies may be derived from similar kinds of studies) showing that controls were not really as good as they claimed – to give one instance, it became obvious that almost everybody knew they were getting the real drug or placebo, because they felt worse initially with the real drug (because of the side effects – interestingly, they've gotten a bit smarter, and now include "nocebos" – placebos that mimic the side effects of drugs). Many drugs like prozac and other wonder drugs of the 90s turned out only to be minimally more effective than placebo (in other words, the improvement was only statistically valid but had no real practical significance). My favorite finding was that Zoloft did WORSE THAN THE PLACEBO!!.

    Someone or some folks always write in when they hear this and say (kind of like you did saying the flu shot works for you so that's all the evidence I need) BUT PROZAC SAVED MY LIFE. I COULN'T GET OUT OF BED BEFORE AND NOW I'M THE CEO OF A FORTUNE 500 COMPANY (well, not necessarily that extreme but something like that).

    It only takes a 3rd grade understanding of math to realize why we're so easily misled by our experience. David Burns (who, by the way, was a world class researcher in psychiatric drugs in the 1970s until he figured out they hardly worked and the "chemical imbalance" theory was completely wrong") has a great example in his book, "When Panic Attacks".

    Say you give a drug, Placebin" to a million people. Well, given the average placebo effectiveness, youre likely to get at least 400,000 people who are dramatically effected by it. They'll write posts in Elephant Journal, and go on Oprah to say how their lives have been changed. And they'll be right. only it wasn't the drug, it was their expectation and assumption about the drug that cured their depression.

    And yes, placebo effects have been seen (measurable, not just psychological effects) in asthma, migraines, parkinsons, epilepsy, and one of the most widely researched and easily measurable effects, with cold and influenza (and pneumonia as well, just to throw that in for good measure). The whole field of psychoneuroimmunology has been growing dramatically since its humble beginnings in the 1980s. People may have had legitimate doubts back then, but the methodology is grown so much that 30 or more years later, it's absurd to dismiss it.

    unfortunatley, drug company sponsored or influenced studies have not kept up, and the control and placebo groups are usually very badly put together and the complex statistics required to control for placebo effects have not kept pace.

    All of which is not to say you're wrong. As I said, I think it's excellent that you be a bit blunt in talking to the anti intellectual, anti science element in the new age community. But having said that, in a larger context, I still say your article is very unbalanced and not looking at the whole picture.

    Hope that is helpful in terms of explaining why I think this issue – from a scientific, balanced, reasonable perspective – is important.

  22. elephantjournal says:

    Hi Don: we invite you to write what you feel is a balanced article on the subject. You can send it to us at [email protected]. Thanks ~ Bryonie

  23. don salmon says:

    Thanks Bryonie. I'd love to write an article for you at some point, but for now, it's all we can do to find the time to create the music and videos for our website on interpersonal neurobiology (no, i'll avoid advertising the URL here for the moment:>)

    In fact, let me propose this – I imagine I'll have the time to write an article some time next spring or summer. And actually, if you don't mind, what I'd really love to do an article on is non New Agey spirituality. At the very foundation of all the problems I see with articles in Elephant Journal – this one included – is what Owen Barfield once referred to as "the residue of unresolved positivism".

    Yeesh, impossibly academic? No, not at all. Barfield (an immensely articulate British barrister and poet who had an immense effect on both CS Lewis – and hence our popular culture a la the "Nardia" tales – and also on the author of the Hobbit) was referring to attempts to water down spirituality in the hopes that something of the awe inspiring, world shaking power of the original teachings of people like Jesus and Gautama – who in some ways could be said to have been aiming to literally decimate the whole sense of the individual and even of the universe among those they were teaching – something of this power might "trickle down".

    Hmmm, "trickle down New Age spirituality", not bad!

    I'm also blogging at the indian psychology institute, where I'll be writing a series of blog posts on the connection between Dan Siegel's "interpersonal neurobiology" and indian psychology (the psychology and cognitive science professors at Universities around India are just starting to wake up to the fact that the insanity of naturalist/materialist thinking makes it quite literally impossible to craft a psychology that makes any sense to real, living people – and if you want to get back to the vaccine article, it's the quantitative, objectivist thinking in medicine – the kind of thinking that treats the body as a machine, that doesn't want to acknowledge the power of the mind, or the heart, or the reality of consciousness, that makes us think that a mechanical intervention like a flu shot is, in itself, something curative.

    Well, I probably have blown it in terms of your invitation, but i thought I should at least warn you of the kind of thing I might write:>))

    I'd love to do something along these lines – a critique of New Age spirituality for Elephant Journal – some time next year, if that might be something you're interested in.

    I'll submit something then, and meanwhile, again, thank you so much for your invitation. i think that something along these lines is the most powerful thing available in terms of moving the world out of the collective near-insanity of physicalist/positivist thinking (what Iain McGilchrist would call unbalanced left brain thinking; what psychologist Les Fehmi would say is an over emphasis on narrow, objective attention). Any chance to talk about how this might change is, I think, a contribution to moving toward a saner world.

    Thank you!

  24. Charlotte says:

    Thank you for putting this all together so concisely. The studies you cite are the reasons why this (now ex) pharmacist and yogi doesn't get the flu shot. May everyone feel empowered to seek their own information and make the decisions that resonate with their particular risk assessment and world view. Peace.

  25. juli says:

    as a mother of a newborn i thank you. vaccines save lives. also id rather get the vaccine than get sick and end up in the hospital getting pumped with antibiotics. i often wonder what folks who oppose vaccines do when they get sick? is modern medicine safe for them at that point? i find it hypocritical.

  26. Kelly says:

    Juli, I think you should know that antibiotics don't work on viral pathogens, like the FLU. Also, when my kids do get sick (very rarely), then we use homeopathics, herbal remedies, essential oils, chiropractic, osteopathy, and many other things, sometimes even our good old 'MD' is seen! It is not hypocritical to reject one certain aspect of something while still seeing the validity in other aspects. That is called being a critical thinker:)

  27. MKJ says:

    They also injure, kill, and destroy thousands of lives, too. But those are the ones that aren't reported. Those are the stories that are often called "SBS: Shaken Baby Syndrome" and "SIDS: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome". Those injuries and deaths are most commonly reported as being caused by a number of things, other than vaccine-related injuries. Educate before you vaccinate.

  28. MKJ says:

    While I am familiar with the argument that "vaccines save lives", it is important that we EDUCATE BEFORE WE VACCINATE. Thousands of vaccine-related injuries and deaths go unreported, or reported as being caused by a number of other things (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Shaken Baby Syndrome, etc) than what it really was. These injuries and deaths are far too common, but the vast majority of you are completely unaware, misinformed, or choose to turn the other way because, well "vaccines save lives." EDUCATE before you vaccinate. The research is out there. There are thousands of cases you can read about that the pharmaceutical industry chooses not to share, or justifies so that we all continue to vaccinate. You have a choice! Make an informed one. If you're interested in researching more, check out: This website will connect you with a plethora of information and resources. But don't stop here, continue to research and educate yourself. Blessings!

  29. MKJ says:

    Amen, Kelly. Ignorance is bliss, or is it?.. I have never been vaccinated and rarely get sick. But when I do, I do exactly what you mentioned. Of course, sometimes it is necessary to go the "traditional" route, but most times it is not necessary. On this particular topic, I encourage people to educate themselves on the entire vaccine spectrum. But it is just easier for people to continue on, listening to their doctors and the media, rather than taking the time to research. Plus, let's face it.. no one likes being told they could be wrong and that what they have been doing for so long is extremely dangerous. Keep taking care of yourself and your family. Blessings!

  30. Sam Asole says:

    Had to chime in. Your quotes are false/misleading and 10 seconds on the internets will show that Dr Morris studies bacteria, not viruses and was forced out of his post, and that there was never a man named James R. Shannon who worked as a director of the NIH. It's easy to make things up on line, but just as easy to find the truth.

  31. Sandy says:

    "I don’t get the shot for me, I get it for you." This, right here. I appreciated this more than anything else. If you are in the service industry or constantly around people, you have to take this into consideration along with your own personal beliefs about the whole vaccine thing.
    And for the argument of this being an unbalanced article, I don't quite understand that sentiment. I personally come here to read personal opinions written by a variety of people with differing lifestyles. I actually think most of the articles here can be quite "unbalanced" and I like that! It makes me think and opens me up to other possibilities. Thanks for posting.

  32. Ross Grayson says:

    Thank you VERY much for standing up in the midst of a storm, Lauren! Your article is excellent, and accurate.

    Science, by definition, is constantly evolving, and an ever moving target of understanding and knowledge. However, that being said there is OVERWHELMING evidence supporting the general success of vaccinations in stopping a broad variety of disease. As with all medications, there have been side effects, and these, too have been studied in great detail as they HAVE been reported and catalogued. And while ANY side effect is unacceptable, the tendency of the anti-vaccinators is to compare ONE case, or even a dozen or a hundred side effects, versus zero. Yes, versus ZERO, rather than versus the thousands, or hundreds of thousands or even millions of cases of catastrophic disease that have been prevented.

    While I am absolutely no apologist for the misdeeds and profiteering behavior of pharma, nor of bad science, the conclusions resulting in the determination that vaccination programs are enormously worthwhile are NOT based on one drug company, or several flawed studies, but rather thousands and thousands of peer reviewed studies and experiences of top flight scientists and physicians which COLLECTIVELY have the same power as does the conclusion regarding climate change. The conspiracists, and the "naturalists", and the "health ranger" self-promotional fear mongers not withstanding, the collective knowledge of the past 100 years of science and study is conclusive regarding the enormous benefits of vaccination for public health.

    For those interested in reading some of this information, a collection of writings and studies are gathered here…

  33. Bobbie Wickline says:

    Lauren, I also wanted to thank you for taking a stand that is often unpopular with the “healthy living” types. Your article was well-written and as balanced as it could be. And thank you, Ross Grayson, for providing your voice of reason. I agree with you 100%. Unfortunately, I think we are just preaching to the choir most of the time.