In its 2014 meta-analysis2 of the available research on inactivated influenza vaccines, the Cochrane Collaboration (which is considered by many as the gold-standard for scientific meta-reviews), reviewed evidence related to influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) that people experience during flu seasons and stated:

“Over 200 viruses cause ILI, which produces the same symptoms (fever, headache, aches, pains, cough and runny nose) as influenza. Without laboratory tests, doctors cannot distinguish between ILI and influenza because both last for days and rarely cause serious illness or death. The types of virus contained in influenza vaccines are usually those that are expected to circulate in the following influenza seasons, according to recommendations of the World Health Organization (seasonal vaccine).”

The Cochrane researchers concluded that:

“Injected influenza vaccines probably have a small protective effect against influenza and ILI (moderate-certainty evidence), as 71 people would need to be vaccinated to avoid one influenza case, and 29 would need to be vaccinated to avoid one case of ILI. Vaccination may have little or no appreciable effect on hospitalizations (low-certainty evidence) or number of working days lost.”

If 71 people have to be vaccinated in order for a single case of influenza to be avoided, this means that flu shots have a rather abysmal effectiveness rating. And it isn’t surprising that flu shots have “little or no appreciable effect on hospitalizations or number of working days lost,” considering its ineffectiveness at preventing illness. Similarly, while many assert that getting vaccinated will render flu symptoms less severe — should it fail to protect you after all — there’s really no good evidence for this either.

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