At the dawn of a looming bird flu pandemic, researchers say they have found a new use for the standard flu vaccine. Scientists at the National Institute for Infectious Diseases Lazzaro Spallanzani in Rome, have found that some volunteers inoculated against the seasonal influenza virus showed antibody protection from the bird flu. Although preliminary, experts are using these results as a way to step-up yearly influenza vaccinations.

It’s no secret how I feel about the flu vaccine–pretty useless as far as I’m concerned; but I will not discount the possibility of cross-over immunity. If, indeed, the annual flu vaccine provides a progressive tolerance to a more virulent viral strain like H5N1 (the nefarious bird flu virus) the more often it is used, then it would certainly warrant mass use. But what I can’t ignore is the convenient opportunity to use fear as a foolproof method of mass marketing.

As I point out in my upcoming book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, public fear is often exploited as a way to pass legislation or sell product. The greater the threat, the more insidious the exploitation. Remember when North Korea had a nuclear bomb pointed at the West Coast? In L.A. it was used to scare locals into buying duct tape, plastic sheeting and other survival gear in the event of a nuclear blast. Now we’d better prepare for–gulp–the bird flu!

No doubt, an infectious pandemic is long overdo; the world hasn’t seen a bona fide one since 1968. But didn’t we hear the same things about e-bola, hanta virus, and the West Nile virus too? Just think about how many threats we’d have to protect ourselves against every year if we were to allow our fears to get the best of us. We might have to sit through a few more Dustin Hoffman duds at the very least. So why is this one any different?

The truth is that, just as experts believe that each successive flu inoculation adds strength to the vaccinated person’s growing immunity, wouldn’t it be just a likely that catching the flu every year or so would also add to one’s protection? Uh, now let’s just think about that for a minute.

One of my strongest arguments in The Six Keys to Optimal Health is to focus on strengthening our internal defenses–the immune system among other things. Only in this way can we increase our chance of surviving any catastrophe. It almost seems counterproductive to rely on the supply of vaccine and antidote for our continued survival; however, I guess it could happen. But I need way more, by way of information, than what we’ve got now to jump on that train. Until we know more–like does the annual flu vaccine provide protection for a large percentage of people, and can one develop an equal amount of immunity, naturally, through routine exposure and fighting off illness every year–then I’ll avoid the flu vaccine for now. Prove its need beyond a reasonable doubt, and you might just see me standing in the flu-line one day, after all.

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