Issue Proposal on the Efficacy of Flu Shots In recent years encouragement to get flu shots has become a yearly mantra. Elderly, children six months to two years, health care workers and immune-deficient people are urged in the strongest terms to go to their doctors or clinics and get a flu shot. This group encompasses about 98 million people. In the fall of 2004 this was in the forefront of American and to some extent the Western World media with the shortage of this flu seasons vaccine. Current medical wisdom states that flu shots are safe, effective and prevent mortality. A recent study published by The Journal of the American Medicine Association (JAMA) has brought the current wisdom into question.
On February 14, 2005 JAMA published the results of a study entitled "Impact of Influenza Vaccination on Seasonal Mortality in the US Elderly Population." The results of the study of thirty years of collected data indicate that there may not be a correlation between flu shot use and a reduction in mortality. In light of the recent research should we continue to advocate flu shots for the elderly and other population groups? I first heard about this recent JAMA study on the radio, I thought this is another case where conventional wisdom may be wrong. In my observation, many times with research we find that actions once thought to be appropriate are shown to be harmful. I am interested specifically in the appropriateness of flu shots for several reasons.
I have a longstanding interest in public health and vaccination programs of all sorts. In addition part of my work as a Data Analyst requires me to look at data and technical papers in a critical fashion to look for the structure of the study and patterns and / or anomalies that may not be noticeable upon first glance. On a personal level my granddaughter; my wife and myself are approaching the age where we will be in the group recommended for flu shots. As our population grows and the median age gets older, questions regarding where and how we spend our health care dollars will become increasingly important. To answer my research question I will first review literature on flu vaccines from conventional sources such as the Center for Disease Control and National Institute for Health. I will then review other material available on the Internet written by doctors that do not agree with the conventional point of view.
In addition, I will review news articles written by Associated Press, CBS, and MSNBC correspondents about the study and flu shots in general. When I have done background study and feel comfortable that I have grasp the material, I will read the article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that originally piqued my interest. When I did my initial research for this issue proposal, there appears to be a wide variety of high quality resources available for study on this subject matter.