IS IT POSSIBLE THAT FluMist®, THE NASAL SPRAY FLU VACCINE, MAY BE CAUSING THE FLU?
by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny
The major media outlets are escalating the push for the flu shot to near
hysteria, especially since the CDC announced that the flu vaccines “may”
provide some protection against the A/Fujian strain. With the supply of flu
vaccine running out, there is now new media-produced promotion for FluMist,
the nasal spray flu vaccine. However, what is not being explored is the
possibility that cases of flu may be caused by FluMist. An overview of the
CDC’s most recently available data regarding flu virus testing brings this
question to the forefront.
Viral types and “antigenic drift”
Each year, the CDC incorporates antigens from the three major strains in
circulation: an Influenza A-type strain from the H1N1 subtype; a second
Influenza A-type strain from the H3N2 subtype; and a third virus from the
Influenza B viruses circulate widely only among humans and are not divided
into subtypes. Influenza B is known to be the cause of sporadic outbreaks
of illness, especially in residential communities such as nursing homes.
The Influenza A strains are the most common cause of annual, widespread
influenza outbreaks. Influenza A viruses are divided into subtypes based on
the type of protein located on the surface of the virus. There are many
subtypes of Influenza A viruses and some of these viruses can be found in
animals, including ducks, chickens, pigs, whales, horses, and seals.
Although unusual, an Influenza A type of virus from an animal can be
transmitted to people.[i]
The Influenza A subtypes most commonly found in people are (H1N1) and
(H3N2) A virus from each of these subtype strains is selected each year for
inclusion in the flu vaccines. The specific viral strains selected for this
year’s flu vaccines are A/New Caledonia/20/
(H3N2) and Hong Kong/1434/2002 (Type B). Both FluzoneÒ and FluMistÒ are
made to protect against these three viruses. [ii] [iii].
Influenza viruses can change in two different ways. One way is called
"antigenic drift." These are small changes in the proteins on the surface
of the virus that happen over time. Antigenic drift produces new viral
strains. The new strains may not be recognized by a person’s antibodies
developed from a previous flu episode, or by antibodies induced by a
previously given flu shot. This is the reason why new viruses are selected
each year to correspond with viruses thought to be commonly circulating.
The other way that flu viruses can change is by a mechanism referred to as
"antigenic shift." Antigenic shift is an abrupt, major change in the
influenza A viruses, resulting in a completely new influenza A subtype.
While influenza A viruses morph via antigenic drift all the time, antigenic
shift happens only occasionally.
The CDC has announced that the viral strain, A/Fujian/411/
the most prevalent virus being identified in the community setting. The
A/Fujian strain was the predominate virus in Australia and New Zealand
during the recent Southern Hemisphere influenza season and is a classified
as a “drift variant” related to the A/Panama virus found in this year’s
vaccines. Because they are antigenically “related”, antibodies produced
against the A/Panama virus will cross-react with the A/Fujian virus, but
much less strongly.
Will the current vaccine protect against the A/Fujian strain? The CDC says
that “vaccine effectiveness depends, in part, on the match between vaccine
strains and circulating viruses and cannot be determined by laboratory
testing.”[iv] Despite a degree of effectiveness suggested by a laboratory
testing, clinical effectiveness from the flu shot—or from FluMist—cannot be
presumed, and neither should it be assured.
The CDC’s Numbers
Since September 28, the WHO and NREVSS[v] laboratories have tested a total
of 19,469 specimens, finding 25.6% of these samples to be positive for
influenza virus. Among the 4,992 samples identified to contain influenza
viruses, 99.6% of the viruses were Influenza A (and 0.4% were influenza B
viruses). The CDC serotyped 20.4% of the Influenza A viruses (1016 samples)
finding 99.9% of them to be Influenza A (H3N2) viruses.
When subtyping was performed on 157 of the 1016 viral samples, 45 (29%)
were found to be antigenically similar to vaccine strain A/Panama, and 112
(71%) were found to be similar to the drift variant, A/Fujian. Of note, one
sample contained an Influenza A virus that was similar to the vaccine
strain A/New Caledonia/20/
Downplaying the numbers
The CDC performed identification on only a small number of samples that
were isolated. In fact, of 4,992 positive samples, only 1016 were found to
be Influenza (H3N2) viruses. What were the other serotypes?
In addition, only 3% (157) of the H3N2 viruses were indentified as
subtypes. This is an extraordinarily small test sample. Even though the
A/Fujian strain has been found in 71% (112) of this sample, what is being
downplayed is that nearly 30% of the viruses have been identified as
“antigenically similar” to viruses found in FluZone and FluMist: 45 samples
(29%) had A/Panama strain viruses and 1 sample had the A/New Caladonia virus.
What is of great concern it that the CDC has subtyped so few samples. What
if 50% or 60% or 80% had been subtyped? Would more A/Panama and A/New
Caladonia viruses have been found? Would further testing implicate FluMist
as a source of influenza?
Does the A/Panama virus come directly from FluMist? Is it possible to use
this technology to differentiate vaccine-type A/Panama flu virus from an
A/Panama wild-type virus?
Technology is available to differentiate wild virus from vaccine virus. For
example, when a case of acute flaccid paralysis is identified in a Third
World Country, PCR testing is used to differentiate wild poliovirus vs.
vaccine-induced poliovirus vs. other types of viruses known to cause
paralysis. Why are we not using this technology to determine
community-acquired influenza from vaccine-induced influenza?
In addition to “finding” these strains within the community, it is known
that FluMist contains the viral strains identified by the CDC. The question
that demands an answer is this: Is FluMist shedding live viruses and
infecting others? Could this nasal spray vaccine be a cause of the flu that
is spreading throughout regions of the U.S.?
[i] CDC. Influenza Viruses.
[ii] Fluzone 2002-2003 package insert.
[iii] Flumist package insert
[iv] CDC. Influenza Summary Update, Week ending November 29, 2003-Week 48.
[v] NREVSS is The National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance
System, a division of the CDC. This is a laboratory-based system that
monitors the detection of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human
parainfluenza viruses (HPIV), respiratory and enteric adenoviruses,
rotavirus and influenza.
[vi] CDC. Influenza Summary Update, Week ending November 29, 2003-Week 48.