Tip/Thought of the Day

The Flu Shot Cheerleader Recants

In 2009, Desiree Jennings was thrown into the national spotlight when she believed a seasonal flu shot given ten days earlier caused erratic movements, body aches, poor memory and slurred speech.

At the time she was a communication manager and cheerleader for a Washington NFL team. Her claims of post flu shot issues caught the attention of Generation Rescue, an anti-vaccine organization, and the story went viral. Promises to “cure” her symptoms and pay mounting medical bills from donations requested on their website were too hard to pass up.

She never saw a dime.

They sent her to North Carolina to see Rashid Buttar, an anti-vaccine physician who claimed he could cure autism and cancer. He was punished by the North Carolina state medical board for promoting these unproven treatments including injecting a cancer patient with hydrogen peroxide and told to stop treating cancer and pediatric patients.

He treated Desiree’s symptoms with intravenous chelation therapy, vitamins, a hyperbaric chamber used for decompression sickness and a lotion he claimed detoxes “the heavy metals patient get with vaccines.”

Here are the facts on that myth.

There are two ways to become immune to an illness. Get sick, survive and make your own antibodies or get a vaccine. Vaccines expose us to a piece of the bacteria or virus that are killed or inactivated. Our immune systems see that small piece and reacts by making antibodies.

In order to boost our immune response and use smaller doses of the vaccines, adjuvants are used. As far back as Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine, adjuvants have been used to decrease the amount of antigens (bacteria or virus) required to still give a beneficial immune response. For example, pertussis needed 3000 protein antigens, smallpox 200. Modern vaccines only require on average 130.

Adjuvants are a critical part of how this process works.

Many have claimed the aluminum used is dangerous and harmful.
Aluminum is one of the most common elements in the earth’s crust and present in almost all our food. We eat it every day. Infants are exposed to more aluminum in breast milk or formula than vaccines. But both are so small they have no impact on our health. Now, childhood vaccinations containing aluminum are given over a longer period of time as an extra precaution.

The other element long touted as dangerous is mercury. Now only multi-dose vials of flu vaccines use thimerosal, an organomercury compound, as a preservative to prevent microbes from accumulating as each dose is removed for its antiseptic and anti-fungal properties. It contains a mercury atom much like hemoglobin in our bodies contain atoms. Yet it’s also used in intravenous medications, antivenins, ophthalmic drops, nasal products, contact lenses solutions, cosmetics and even tattoo ink. Who questions if these are causing an issue?

This minuscule amount is not the mercury we fear in water, fish and thermometers. Thimerosal has ethyl mercury not methyl mercury. It’s like the difference between ethyl alcohol (ethanol) which makes us tipsy and methyl alcohol (methanol) which will make us blind.

Studies claiming it causes autism in children have been debunked. Years after this preservative was removed from childhood vaccines the prevalence of autism doubled in the U.S.

So, it wasn’t surprising that initially Generation Rescue claimed Desiree as their anti-vaccine poster girl. She was young, beautiful and healthy one minute then devastated the next. She had no idea the cause and after multiple work ups, doctor visits and evaluations proved no source other than an emotional one, she grabbed for any answer. When her symptoms appeared to improve initially, she was held up as the reason not to get vaccinated. But when they reappeared Generation Rescue called her a fraud. They refused to pay the $32,000 Dr Buttar demanded for his failed treatments and scrubbed their website of any reference to her plight or their initial support.

She has since graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. She aspires to work for a vaccine manufacturer and did take the COVID vaccines. She now admits there may have been “a psychogenic component” to her symptoms and feels “ashamed and saddened [her] story could have harmed others by keeping them from getting vaccinated.”

But sadly, once the sensationalized story is out there it’s usually the only thing people remember or see. Not the retraction on page 10.

It’s been 14 years and I still hear patients reference the “flu shot cheerleader” when passing on getting the flu shot.

There is so much inaccurate data and people willing to use it to further their own agenda. It can be scary and confusing.

Look into the data yourself. Ask professionals you trust. Learn the truth.

Not just for yourself but for those you love and your community.

Without herd immunity we are all at risk. This is when the virus or bacteria can no longer find hosts to infect. There is safety in numbers.

Each bug requires a different level of people having received the vaccination to provide herd immunity.

For the flu it’s 60%.
For polio it’s 80%.
For mumps, measles and rubella 95%.

Because COVID keeps morphing into more virulent and infectious strains it’s thought to be somewhere between 70-90%. But the answer is clear. The more we are protected the less it will be able to adapt and overcome our present defenses.

Most of the available vaccines have been around for decades. They are tried and true with hundreds of millions of recipients showing they are safe. Even COVID has now been out for over a year with hundreds of millions vaccinated worldwide. The initial argument it’s too new is no longer valid. The minimal side effect profile (0.07%) and demonstrable life-saving effects are incredible.

Whether it’s for your health, someone you love, co- workers, your city… keeping us all healthy and safe is the goal.






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