Led by the Nose — Why the Nasal Flu Vaccine is Not so Safe or Effective

The new nasal flu vaccine has already been shelved in the US. Celeste McGovern investigates live viruses, MSG, narcolepsy and other reasons 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.


Flu Hero cartoon

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 defenses.


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, 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—

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