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January 2020 (Vol. 11 Issue 4)

Led by the nose – New dangers of the flu vaccine

About the author: 
Celeste McGovern

Led by the nose – New dangers of the flu vaccine image

The new nasal flu vaccine has already been shelved in the US. Celeste McGovern investigates why you should be wary

Flu vaccination season began this autumn and is still in full swing. Medical practices even close on selected days so that the only patients are there to get their vaccines. Public-health information packets are sent out to parents, while legions of nurses descend on nurseries and schools, where children line up for the flu ‘jab’—in fact, a squirt up the nose.

Public-health officials and doctors’ offices are promoting the nasal flu vaccine, called Fluenz Tetra, as the first choice for all children aged between two and 17 years. One National Health Service (NHS) trust has even produced a ‘Flu Hero’ cartoon for children, featuring a little boy who gets a nasal flu vaccine from a superhero and, like the bite of a radioactive spider, is himself transformed into a superhero with super defences.

But in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suddenly pulled the nasal flu vaccine FluMist, made by the same pharmaceutical company as Fluenz Tetra (AstraZeneca), out of circulation this year. Last year, millions of parents were assured it was “safe and effective”, but this year, no nasal flu vaccine is on offer in
the States.

The reason given by the CDC is that the nasal flu vaccine is not so effective after all. In fact, last year’s FluMist proved to be only 3 per cent effective. “This 3 percent estimate means no protective benefit could be measured,” the CDC press release stated, while adding that the vaccine had not been statistically effective for three years running.1

AstraZeneca’s response is that the company’s own research data, as well as that of other health agencies, differ from the CDC’s, so the “distribution and use of the vaccine in other countries are progressing as planned”.2

Still, flu vaccines are notoriously hit and miss—the 2015 influenza vaccine was widely panned for being only 23 per cent effective. Flu viruses change every year and health officials admit that each year’s vaccines are designed to target the ‘best-guess’ four of the dozens of strains of flu viruses that float about during every flu season.

Even when there is a good match between the strains targeted by the vaccine and those that are circulating, the CDC admits that vaccines are typically only 50–60 per cent effective.3 But while we know the nasal flu vaccine doesn’t work, are there also reasons to question its safety?

Live viruses

Public-health officials dismiss the idea that you can get flu from the flu vaccine as ‘myth’. Yet it’s little wonder that there’s such a myth though, as the side-effects of the vaccine are identical to the symptoms of flu: a runny or stuffy nose, headaches and muscle aches, sore throat, loss of appetite, chills and fever, and earache. It’s not influenza, we’re assured, it just feels like it.

The nasal vaccine contains live viruses, but its promotional material says they are “attenuated”—disabled and harmless in themselves, but still able to stimulate our immune system to fight off the flu bug when it’s encountered.

According to the UK’s electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC;, each vial of Fluenz Tetra vaccine spray contains 107—that’s 10 million—live attenuated and “genetically modified organisms” of each of the four strains per nostril. That’s 80 million viruses (give or take a few million) per dose specially designed to grow and replicate inside the nasal passages.

To put this number in perspective, when Virginia Tech scientists measured the number of airborne viruses in air samples from airplane cabins, doctors’ offices and day-care centres, they found an average concentration of 16,000 viruses suspended in each cubic metre of air—enough to infect anyone inhaling the air within an hour.4 The nasal flu vaccine would instantly expose your nasal passages to thousands of times
this concentration.

The vaccine’s engineered viruses include H1N1 (swine flu), which is dangerous because it can lead to encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, that, while rare, can lead to disability or even kill, just like the rare worst-case flu. It can also cross the blood–brain barrier and lead to long-term brain inflammation.

In one 2010 study, two University of Maryland neuroimmunologists reviewed the vast literature on the impact of viruses, metals, toxins and other foreign invaders on the human brain and behaviour, and confirmed that
“[a]irborne infectious, allergic and pollution agents are among the most common inflammatory factors which may affect brain function via the brain–nose interface”.5

In addition, these inflammatory processes, while still poorly understood, are clearly demonstrated to alter behaviour, and are very likely triggers for the development of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, multiple sclerosis, and anxiety and mood disorders.5

What’s more, a 2014 study by researchers at GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines in Hamilton, Montana, discovered that intranasal vaccination triggered specific “detrimental” immune responses associated with the promotion of neurological diseases during and after a flu infection—the very conditions that parents hope to prevent by vaccinating.6

Viral shedding

It turns out, too, that most people do shed live flu vaccine viruses for at least 21 days after nasal vaccination—and the younger they are, the more they spread it. In one trial at a day care, 80 per cent of vaccinated children shed at least one vaccine strain, and one child ‘vaccinated’ by a placebo in one study was confirmed as infected by a vaccine strain. Four other cases of flu were not vaccine-related.7

Among adults, 93 per cent of those vaccinated were shedding the nasal flu vaccine virus on the first day of receiving it compared with 17 per cent the following day.8

Because viruses mutate just like the bacteria that develop antibiotic resistance, there is no assurance that these viruses will not revert to the infectious wild-type virus—or something even more virulent. This risk of live virus transmission is why government pamphlets warn that “children who have been vaccinated should avoid close contact with people with severely weakened immune systems for around two weeks after being vaccinated”, while vaccine experts have warned that children “may have to stay away from elderly relatives for a few days after vaccination”.

Nevertheless, the UK’s NHS Choices website has pitched the vaccine as an agent to protect the elderly and sick. It even claims it could prevent 2,000 deaths this way.

This controversial and contradictory policy may be because it’s hard to sell a vaccine to prevent flu deaths in children when they’re so rare—in fact, only six per million young people (aged 0–18 years) died worldwide during the 2009 swine flu “pandemic”, according to one British observational study.9

Toxic ingredients

Some religious groups have objected to the nasal flu vaccine on the grounds that it contains pork gelatine. The NHS concedes that it does and suggests getting an injection instead to avoid the animal ingredients.

But pork is just one of the many “excipient” ingredients in the nasal flu vaccine. Top of that list is monosodium glutamate (MSG), a chemical that many parents try to keep their children from consuming.

Neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock’s book, Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills (Health Press, 1996), explains how scientists have known for decades that MSG can literally excite brain cells to death (hence the name ‘excitotoxins’), and also cause the sort of sustained brain inflammation common to neurological diseases like autism, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s. He also documents how it’s particularly damaging to developing brains, which is why MSG is banned from baby foods.

Extensive research has shown that various metals, viruses, chemicals like MSG and pharmaceuticals enter the brain via the olfactory (nasal) tract and, from there, travel directly to the most vulnerable parts of the brain—those affecting memory and behaviour.

MSG, pork and egg proteins, and any of the vaccine’s other ingredients could activate the brain’s inflammatory immune responses just as well as the live viruses do.

Blaylock says that the nasal flu vaccine spray dangers “could manifest as a number of neurological and behavioural problems, such as anger, irritability, poor concentration and focus, difficulty learning, poor attention, language difficulties and loss of behavioural control, especially for fear and anger”. He also adds that “since the area of the brain involved is so critical to learning, behaviour and language, to endanger these parts of the brain would constitute malpractice”.

Autoimmune disease

Bobby Hunter was a happy, boisterous 10-year-old when he received the nasal flu vaccine at school. Within a few weeks, his mother noticed he was struggling to stay awake. Then he began collapsing out of the blue.

Eventually, Bobby was diagnosed with narcolepsy, a lifelong incurable condition where victims suddenly drop into a deep dream sleep, sometimes a dozen times a day or more. It can also be accompanied by bizarre and terrifying symptoms: waking hallucinations of demons; insomnia; sleep paralysis; and a sudden loss of muscle control, or cataplexy, often triggered by strong emotions, causing sufferers to suddenly flop on the spot like rag dolls.

The condition is life-altering: you can’t be a pilot or a football player or a cab driver, and swimming is out, if you have narcolepsy. In fact, narcolepsy victims need minding the rest of their lives because they could collapse at any time—crossing the road, riding an escalator. For Bobby, smiling and laughing is now dangerous because it might trigger an attack.

Bobby’s mother Amanda is convinced the nasal flu vaccine triggered Bobby’s narcolepsy—and there is an emerging body of science to explain just why that’s possible.

After GlaxoSmithKline distributed its Pandemrix flu vaccine, a child neurologist in Finland noticed a sharp uptick in narcolepsy cases. Epidemiological studies then confirmed that children who received the vaccine were 12.7 times more likely to develop the condition, and later studies in France and England corroborated the data.

Last year, researchers at Stanford University and Novartis Pharmaceuticals published their findings on how the vaccine most likely causes narcolepsy. They identified a flu protein in the H1N1 vaccine that closely resembled a neurotransmitter in the brain called ‘orexin’, which regulates appetite and sleep and wake cycles.

The vaccine contains other ingredients that powerfully boost the immune response, triggering the production of masses of antibodies that, like drones, are programmed to destroy flu proteins. These hang around for a long time vigilantly on the lookout for it (which is what’s supposed to keep you flu-free all season).

On reaching the brain, these antibodies mistakenly target the brain cells that produce orexin in a process known as ‘immune cross-reaction’. So, primed by the vaccine, the narcolepsy sufferer’s own immune system is assaulting the brain, making it an autoimmune disease.10

What’s worse, at the 10th International Congress on Autoimmunity, held in Leipzig, Germany, in 2016, the lead researcher of the Stanford/Novartis study, Sohail Ahmed, and other immunologists confirmed that any flu vaccine containing the H1N1 virus could trigger narcolepsy in people, like Bobby, who are genetically susceptible. In fact, anyone carrying the HLA-DQB1*0602 genetic marker is at higher risk of developing narcolepsy; this antigen subtype is found in 20 per cent of the general population.11

Nevertheless, Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) considers that their research is insufficient to prove any connection between narcolepsy and H1N1, so it’s not mentioned in the promotional packages sent to parents.

So long as cases like Bobby’s are not epidemic, they will be viewed as the collateral damage the agency is willing that UK children (and adults) risk to keep the flu vaccines rolling.

Narcolepsy is just one of many autoimmune diseases linked to vaccination. As a recent textbook on medical immunology called Vaccines and Autoimmunity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), edited by Yehuda Shoenfeld and colleagues, states: “Physicians need to be aware that, in certain individuals, vaccination can trigger serious and potentially disabling and even fatal autoimmune manifestations.”

The book was inspired by a new syndrome, first identified by Professor Shoenfeld at Tel-Aviv University in Israel, called ASIA—Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants. In ASIA, adjuvants commonly used in medical practice to enhance the body’s immune system, especially aluminium in vaccines, trigger such a cascade of immune responses that it turns on its host, thereby causing a range of autoimmune diseases.

“What is obvious,” say Shoenfeld et al., “is that a typical vaccine formulation contains all the necessary biochemical components to induce autoimmune manifestations.” What’s more, new research on the residual contaminants (such as animal viruses, and foreign DNA and RNA) in vaccines, long presumed to be inconsequential, “suggest[s] that even these trace amounts may not be inherently safe”.

More than 100 autoimmune diseases have so far been identified, and the field is growing at an alarming rate. It includes chronic conditions that mainstream medicine considers incurable, such as multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes (type 1), rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, alopecia, scleroderma, coeliac disease and ulcerative colitis.

Vaccination can cause these diseases in susceptible individuals, yet so far, no public-health authorities are trying to find out who these potential victims are.

One study in chickens found that vaccination against one disease virus “enhances the fitness of more virulent strains”, making it possible for superbug strains to develop and be transmitted. This creates an environment in which vaccines, like antibiotics, are always chasing new strains to keep up, creating “conditions that promote the emergence of pathogen strains that cause more severe disease in unvaccinated hosts”.12 In other words, flu vaccination promotes superbugs that jeopardize the unvaccinated too.


Children who have severe egg allergies are warned to avoid the nasal flu vaccine because the viruses they contain were grown on chicken eggs. Yet, neither the public-health officials nor pharmaceutical companies have ever explained how it is that vaccines, designed to directly and powerfully stimulate the immune system, can’t also be involved in the subsequent development of food allergies.

Allergy scientists routinely administer the same or similar ingredients to those used in vaccines to create allergies in lab-test animals. For example, a peanut allergy was induced in mice (which don’t get food allergies naturally) by administering a peanut extract together with a powerful immune stimulant (or adjuvant, in this case, Staphylococcus aureus-derived toxins).13

Nasal flu vaccines, which are likewise powerful immune stimulators, contain bacteria and viruses or their toxins, as well as proteins from foods like pork and eggs.

Missing safety data

Public Health England insists that the nasal flu vaccine has been proven “safe and effective”, but scientists who have reviewed the vaccine’s data have come to a different conclusion. In 2012, ahead of the NHS launch of the nasal flu vaccine, the Cochrane Collaboration published a review of 75 studies and 300,000 observations of flu vaccines, including those using attenuated or ‘inactivated’ microorganisms.14

As the reviewers discovered, “[e]xtensive evidence of reporting bias of safety outcomes from trials of live attenuated influenza vaccines (LAIVs) impeded meaningful analysis”, and that “reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions”.

“It was not possible to analyze the safety of vaccines from the studies due to the lack of standardization in the information given,” the report continued, “but very little information was found on the safety of inactivated vaccines, the most commonly used vaccine in young children.”14

Later, as the NHS launched the nasal spray vaccine onto millions of children, Tom Jefferson, the Cochrane review’s lead author, told a newspaper columnist why he couldn’t support the decision.

“Influenza vaccines are about marketing and not science,” he said. “We have few trials, and masses of very poor-quality observational evidence. We have presented evidence of considerable reporting bias, which governments continue to ignore.”15

Vaccine-caused shifts in the microbiome

One ingredient in the nasal flu vaccine is the antibiotic gentamicin. As the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued warnings on the emergence of new superbugs due to antibiotic overuse, doctors should be prescribing these drugs with caution. Yet, public-health officials allow them to be administered to millions of children through the nasal flu vaccine despite the fact that gentamicin has serious side-effects of its own.

A recent explosion of research has been investigating the ecology of the millions of microbes that inhabit the human body and play crucial roles in digesting food, manufacturing vitamins, regulating gene expression, signalling immune responses and so on. But they’ve barely begun to look at how prescription drugs, including vaccines, affect the body’s microbiome (as these microorganisms are termed collectively).

One study—published in the journal mBio, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology,—did just that in mice, and reported that nasal vaccination with live attenuated virus “reverses normal bacterial clearance from the nasopharynx and significantly increases bacterial carriage densities of the clinically important bacterial pathogens Streptococcus pneumoniae... and Staphylococcus aureus”.1

The report then went on to say that live attenuated viral vaccines “may have unintended consequences on important human bacterial pathogens unrelated to the vaccine target species”.1

Moving on to humans, a team of researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles examined the impact of the nasal flu vaccine on the nasal microbiota in adults and reported that it “led to significant changes in microbial community structure, diversity, and core taxonomic membership as well as increases in the relative abundances of Staphylococcus and Bacteroides genera”. They concluded that the vaccine “may foster the disproportionate emergence of potentially pathogenic species such as S. aureus.”2

Both S. pneumoniae and S. aureus are associated with ear infections in children—a leading reason for paediatric visits to the doctor and antibiotic prescriptions to children.

Group A ‘strep’ infections are also linked to rarer paediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infection (PANDAS), such as obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), or vocal or motor tics, following strep infection. One recent case report of a nine-year-old girl in Italy found a link between S. aureus in the nose and throat and a tic disorder—in this case, Tourette’s syndrome, characterized by involuntary muscle tics and vocalizations, including compulsive obscenities.3

Six ways to prevent flu without drugs

If you’d like to avoid vaccine-related exposures to modified viruses and their cocktails of toxic ingredients, here are some natural ways to lower your chances of coming down with flu.

Vitamin D

Low blood levels of this vitamin—mostly found in people who don’t get enough (safe) exposure to sunshine—have been associated with an increased risk of respiratory infections in adults, children and infants.1

Too-low levels have also been linked to more severe acute bouts of lung infections in children,2 and to deaths from pneumonia in adults.3 This is thought to be due to the important role of vitamin D in our immune response to infections.

To keep your circulating levels of vitamin D within the healthy range of 50.1–220 nmol/L, request a blood test from your GP to check your levels, or order a finger-prick test from City Assays online (

While most researchers report promising results with vitamin D supplementation,4 some feel that more “rigorous research studies” with larger populations are needed.5

Suggested daily dosage: at least 10–15 min/day of sun exposure or 1,000–3,000 IU/day of D3, the natural form of the vitamin

Vitamin C

For decades, vitamin C, an essential antioxidant known to play a vital role in immune system formation and function, has been known to fight both flu and cold symptoms.6

Recently, a study of 14 young top Polish figure skaters given vitamin C during 10-day training camp showed that levels of two genes related to cellular stress and protein damage were significantly lowered with supplementation of vitamins C during training and sports competitions.7

Suggested daily dosage: 1–3 g of ascorbic acid

Gargling with tea

A Japanese review of five studies involving 1,890 participants found that those who gargled with tea (whether green and black) had a 30 per cent lower risk of influenza infection than did participants who gargled with either placebo/water or didn’t gargle at all.8

Suggested daily dosage: gargle with tea regularly (morning or evening) for at least 60 days, and make sure the tea isn’t too hot

Green chiretta

(Andrographis paniculata)

This bitter herb, commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine (Chuan Xin Lian), is medical detective Harald Gaier’s go-to remedy to prevent flu as it has been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and antiviral.9 Capsules of Andrographis extract can be purchased from various sites online.

Suggested daily dosage: 3 g of Andrographis powder three or four times daily, or take capsules as directed, throughout the flu season


A natural antibacterial and antiviral, garlic may be worth a try for fending off colds and flu. In one 12-week trial, 146 volunteers who took garlic supplements had significantly fewer colds, fewer sick days and shorter cold durations than those taking a placebo.10

Suggested daily dosage: 180 mg/day of allicin (the biologically active ingredient in garlic)


Adults who are more active during the autumn and winter months spend three and a half fewer days suffering with a cold or flu compared with their more sedentary counterparts. Regular exercisers also tend to have milder symptoms when they do fall ill, the researchers discovered.11

Suggested daily dosage: around 20 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise—like swimming, jogging or cycling—five or more days a week

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Rebuild your immune system at any age

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