woman getting a flu shot

Do Flu Shots Prevent the Flu?

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

Myth: Flu shots are your best defense against the flu.

Fact: They’re not terribly effective and can give you a false sense of security.

What to Do: Keep your immune system strong.

If you Google “flu shot” you will get an avalanche of hits (more than 90 million of them) that include the usual recommendations from public health authorities everywhere. There is now, in fact, a Google feature that can identify the nearest clinic or drug store that can give you the shot.

A growing sign of cyber tech advancing the cause of public health? It is if you believe in the flu shot.

Flu Shots  − Way Off Target?

I haven’t recommended the flu shot to patients. And if you are healthy, I say think twice about whether it is really the best prevention strategy for you.

From my observation over the years those who have gotten shots experience colds and flu as much as people who have passed on them. There are many ways to protect yourself against the flu.

What the Research Demonstrates about Flu Shots and Why Some Studies Are More Reliable than Others

Flu shot effectiveness does not have a great track record, no matter what your doctor or public health officials say. A few years ago I read a British Medical Journal review of multiple studies relating to flu shot efficacy. The conclusion was that the evidence indicates “little or no effect.”  The article said most of the medical studies to date on the subject are poorly designed and contain many confusing factors and biases making it difficult to determine true effectiveness. The difference between predictions and actual effect on hospital admissions, death rates, and time off work was “striking,” in the opinion of the authors, members of The Cochrane Collaboration, a large international network that reviews research studies.

In another article, the same group strongly questioned the reliability of studies on the effect of flu shots on healthy adults. Many of the studies were funded by the pharmaceutical industry and manufacturers of the vaccines. These “studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than…studies funded from public sources (which) were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines.” The Cochrane review “showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin” and “there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions.”

Earlier, in 2005, I read an analysis by a group of researchers at the National Institutes of Health. They had crunched numbers from flu shot results going back decades and said they couldn’t find any connection between increasing vaccination coverage after 1980 and declining mortality rates in any age group. To them, the benefits of flu shots have been “substantially” overestimated.

More recently, in January 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that a one-month survey (Martin – Moderate) of 1,155 children and adults indicated that the vaccine was effective in 62 percent of cases. However, another report (Martin – Poor) one month later indicated that flu shots were a paltry 9 percent effective for people over 65. Those who got the shot were just 9 percent less likely to develop flu than those who didn’t.

Who knows what such numbers mean, and if they are substantially overestimated to begin with, why depend on the flu shot to keep you healthy when there are other, less painful ways to do so.

Toxicity: Another Consideration

In addition to the question of effectiveness, there is also the issue of thimerosal – a mercury-based preservative and anti-microbial agent – used in multi-dose vaccines vials that can be administered to more than one patient. Mercury is infamous as a potent neurotoxin, however, government health officials insist that the level of thimerosal, used for decades, is safe, and protects against contamination by bacteria and fungi of the vial once it is opened. Single-dose vials are made without thimerosal.

If you opt to get a flu shot, make sure you get a thimerosal-free version. It’s not a good idea to introduce any mercury into your body, no matter who says it is safe.

Who I Would Recommend Get a Flu Shot

Who would I recommend flu shots for? People with poor respiratory function who are vulnerable to pneumonia, or to those with fragile health due to a recent cardiac event (e.g. a heart attack or an episode of unstable angina; see Flu Vaccine Prevents Heart Attacks and Strokes? Don’t Buy Into the Hype).

The Sinatra Solution: Better Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System

If you want to keep colds and flu at bay, or at least minimize them if you are affected, honor your immune system and keep it strong. How do you do that?  Here’s how:

1. Eat a nutritious diet.  Avoid excess sugar.

2. Get plenty of rest. Here are some Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep.

3. Keep your stress under control. That’s extremely important. Stress can dynamite your immune system.

4. Climate permitting, expose your skin to 15 to 20 minutes direct sunlight each day to keep your vitamin D levels up.

5. Among my favorite supplement recommendations are N-acetyl cysteine (600-1,000 mg daily), selenium (100-200 mcg), vitamin D (2,000 IU), resveratrol (250 mg), and licorice root (1 dropperful under the tongue). Just a cautionary note on licorice root: don’t take it longer than 10 days and check with your doctor when considering using it if you have high blood pressure. Licorice has the potential to raise blood pressure because of an altering effect on potassium in the body. Used over time, it can increase blood pressure.

Now, if you’ve already had a flu shot this year, don’t let this give you a false sense of security. It’s still important to keep your immune system strong to protect against colds and flu strains you haven’t been vaccinated against.


© 2015 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply


  1. Flu shots are valuable

    on October 16, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Some will say my experience with flu shots is anecdotal, but it covers enough years to have become statistically significant. I received my first flu shot at age 11 and am now 76, so the total years of experience with flu shots is 65. In that time I’ve had a flu shot in 49 years and never had the flu during one of those years. In 16 years I did not take a flu shot and I came down with the flu in every one of those years. The worst outcome was in the 1969-1970 flu season when I did not take a flu shot and came down with the flu three times, even though I have always been a healthy person. Based on that experience, I have taken a flu shot each year since turning 65 and it has worked. How do you explain that track record, Dr. Sinatra?

  2. judy gray

    on October 16, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    I am a grandmother and former teacher. I find that I now get everything when I am around children. We are going to have another grandchild in February. I read that anyone around infants should have the flu shot. I already have had the DPT vaccination. Is the flu shot necessary when caring for newborns?

  3. Talia

    on October 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    I stopped taking flu shots two years ago with marvelous results.
    No flu, no yearly bronchitis and an end to my years of allergies.
    I was not expecting results so positive!
    thanks, Dr Sinatra. I take supplements to build up my immune
    system instead. And I am aware the big bucks that Big Pharma
    hauls in with flu and shingles vaccines for the elderly like me.
    Especially, we the old, are told get a flu shot or die!
    Not this American…to God be the Glory. bless you

  4. Daniel

    on October 16, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    I am 63 years old. I eat an organic, vegan diet. I have never had a flu shot. I have never had the flu or even a cold. How do you explain that track record?

  5. Ruth

    on October 16, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    I agree with Talia! I have never had a flu shot (I just turned 60) and I had the flu once- when my immune system was very weak from stress, failure to exercise and lack of sleep and I caught it from a friend who had always taken a flu shot {she, by the way, gets sick just about every year with the flu!}. The key, as Dr. Sinatra points out, is keeping a strong immune system through diet, exercise and quality supplements. It does take some work but it worth it, not only for flu prevention but to cut down or eliminate other health issues.

  6. Gailon

    on October 16, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    I was required to take a flu shot while in the Army 1956-1958. I am now 81 years old, and since 1958 have only had a flu shot once, and that was last year when someone convinced me that it was going to be a bad year for the flu and I should take the shot “because of my age”. I did not have the flu last year, but then I can only remember having the flu a couple of times in all those 56 years. I am a vegetarian, and take my Green Food supplement and Bee Pollen every day. I’m healthy for my age without the use of any drugs. How d’ya explain them facts?

  7. Franklin d adams

    on October 16, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    I am 71 and have had mabey 2 flu shots since i left the army in 1968. When i was 2, my parents said they almost lost me due to phneumonia. Last year i let my pcp talk me into taking a flu shot, and i volunteered to take a phneumonia shot due to history. I do not believe in the flu shot, however i do believe in vaccines, after all where would we be if it were not for the polio vaccine or any of the other communicable disease prevention. I do believe the flu shots, and perhaps shingles are over hyped.

  8. SW

    on October 16, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    No flu shot for me. When I get flu I take the homeopathic Oscillococcinum and it is gone after 2 doses-always.
    The problem with the MMR vaccine may be a version of graft v. host disease because it has bits of the DNA of the aborted baby, whose cells the rubella virus is grown in, to make the rubella vaccine. Dr Helen Ratajczak theorizes that this causes inflammation in the brain.

  9. FAS

    on October 16, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    I have had a flu shot every year since 1951 when it was required of service personnel (USAF). I continued every year after discharge in 1954. I have never had flu.

  10. Richard Kurylski, PhD

    on October 16, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Three cheers for Dr Sinatra, your arguments are so convincing that you, Dr Sinatra should substitute Dr Oz in his tv programmes. Besides, everybody should learn this article by heart, especially all those wishing to introduce seriously the Agenda 21. The article should make them think twice.
    Of course there are always exceptions like that of #FAS. but they only prove the rule articulated by Dr Sinatra.

  11. Paul Pompeii

    on October 17, 2014 at 5:10 am

    I agree with most of what you said, but I am disappointed that you still advocate vaccines in some situations. No vaccine has ever been proven scientifically to actually improve ones health. All they do beyond some possible beneficial placebo effect is harm, damage, and desensitize the immune system! Some people do experience less symptoms of various forms of healing crisis like the flu or a cold simply because their level of tolerance for toxic buildup in the body has been raised by the damaging effect of the injected poisons of the vaccines! The medical system is designed to make the public experience poor health, which guarantees more profits, more dependence, and ultimately shorter live spans! Its a Win-Win-Win scenario for their overall agenda!

  12. Art Trevallee

    on October 17, 2014 at 7:06 am

    I am 67 years old, and I have had the flu probably only around 4 or 5 times in my life. Two of those flu cases happened within a day or two after receiving the flu vaccine. That is why I no longer get flu shots.

  13. KLOU

    on October 18, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    My husband is 78 and I am 75 – he still teaches high school math, and neither of us have had the
    flu in 40 years – We do, however take sugar free sambucus (elderberry syrup from health food
    store or amazon) on a fairly regular basis. Not always, but anytime we feel a throat tickle or such.
    I can’t remember the last time we’ve had a bad cold.

  14. Marlene

    on October 24, 2014 at 3:45 am

    We were required to have a flu shot on my job in the late 50’s–early 60’s. I got the flu every year.
    My husband and I have not had a flu shot in years and have not had the flu.

  15. Roger Carlson

    on April 14, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    It could be that flu shot benefits more people than others. I have had the flu shot every year since 1984 and have had good luck with them, having never had the flu. But I also take immune boosting supplements including NAC, Vitamin D, Epicor, and Wild Oil of Oregano. So maybe they get some of the credit too. Some years the vaccine did NOT match the circulating flu viruses so the supplements definitely helped there. Have had very few colds and sinus infections since taking Vitamin D and Wild Oil of Oregano. The Wild Oil of Oregano can knock out a cold or sinus infections if you take them early as soon as you get symptoms.

    I had hernia surgery (open repair) 3 weeks ago. The pain is getting much better now and I am happy to report no infections either. It was a large hernia so the recovery has been a little rough initially.

    Back on topic, I know people who got severe reactions from flu shots and clearly I think they should not take them. Another factor is that many people who take statins have shown a failure to benefit from flu shots due to the suppression of the immune system that statins cause.

    I do have allergies and get allergy shots every week. They have been of tremendous benefit to me I could not get by without them. The flu shots have had no effect on the allergies one way or the other. I also have asthma and having the flu causes a cough so severe I think I’m going to crack a rib or cough up my lungs. That is added incentive for me to have a flu shot.

    I think it is safe to say your mileage may vary with a flu shot.

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