Monday, December 10, 2012

A Shot in the Dark

I started visiting a chiropractor the other day. Actually it was several weeks ago now. Anita convinced me to do something besides just complaining about the pain in my neck because I was becoming a real pain in the neck. While I’m not yet positive that chiropractic care is the best thing since sliced bread, I have to admit that I feel better physically.

I’m not happy about what I've learned, though.

Education is really important at the clinic I frequent. Not only do several monitors hang on the walls behind the receptionist’s desk that flash informational slides about chiropractic and nutrition, but the doctors actually hold classes and disseminate information on health-related topics. This includes a handout entitled “Should I Get a Flu Shot?” that really gave me the heebie-jeebies. Consider this:

“Each year the flu vaccine is newly redesigned using several strains from different types of flu that were common the season before. So basically you’re getting a vaccine that is in theory ideal for protecting you from last year’s primary flu types…”

But that’s not what made me wince. The next paragraph did:

“But that shot at your doctor’s office contains much more than just flu strains. The vaccine is prepared with chicken embryo fluid, inoculated with the living flu strains. The fluid is then treated with formaldehyde to inactivate the virus.”

But wait. There’s more:

“Thimerosal, a mercury derivative, is injected to help preserve the mixture. Ethylene glycol (better known as antifreeze) and another chemical called phenol are added to disinfect. And because animal cells are used for this process, animal viruses are sometimes introduced into the vaccine undetected…”

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
The handout goes on to provide information on herbs and supplements that help elevate antioxidant levels and reduce the length and severity of colds and flu. It closes by encouraging the reader to get the right amount of sleep, eat a balanced diet and maintain a light to moderate exercise regimen in addition to using the more natural “helpers.”

I wondered if this was just another one of those pro-PETA fliers put together by damn dirty hippies who meditate with crystals and beat on drums. It may be, but it turns out that it’s not the only source of compelling information on vaccines. I found this at

A common misconception about vaccines purports that they are the primary reason why infectious disease rates saw a rapid and steady decline throughout the early-to-mid 20th century. But an honest look at the figures reveals that diseases like polio, typhoid, measles, and tuberculosis were already in significant decline long before vaccines were ever even invented, this being the result of improved hygiene and diet.

This got me thinking about the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine that we’re encouraged to give young girls to protect against cervical and other cancers. (Remember how Texas Governor Rick Perry caught some heat during a GOP primary debate for mandating the vaccine in his state when he had financial ties to Merck, the vaccine’s manufacturer?) Our oldest daughter, who’s 12, received this vaccine last year; Anita thinks our nine- and seven-year-old girls are still too young. Now I wonder what’s in it and if it’s necessary.

I also thought about last October when over 100 people in Michigan contracted meningitis from contaminated steroid injections. Anita had received steroid injections at around the same time because of her allergies so I paid close attention to the story for a while. When I learned that folks had sought the injections to alleviate neck and back pain, not allergies, I was relieved. But 30 people died. In a nation where 2.4 million people die each year, 30 might seem minuscule – but the friends and families of the 30 probably don’t think so.

I like the idea of embracing herbal supplements and natural remedies. But I wanted to stop eating meat, falling asleep with the TV on and waiting until a neighborhood pet went missing before shoveling my driveway in the winter, too, and that hasn't turned out too well.

I’d like to think my government’s protecting me but in this era of relaxed regulations, slashed budgets and inadequate staffing levels, perhaps it’s imprudent to expect the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to live up to its mandate. And I’m pretty sure the CEOs of Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline and the other huge pharmaceutical companies aren't pulling all-nighters to make sure their products are beyond reproach.

I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say that shooting formaldehyde into one’s veins is not the best way to ensure good health.

Thank goodness for chiropractors.

Sources:, Volz Family Chiropractic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,


  1. Patrick, I am not sure if I should take this article as a cautionary tale since I am planning on going on Wednesday to get a flu shot. As you may or may not know, I am a teacher. Schools are germ breeding grounds as most parents do not keep their sick children home, opting to send them to school where they can be baby-sat. Having read this I am not so sure I am going to have that shot. So if I come down with the flu you had better be prepared to come to the Bahamas and nurse me back to health. It won't be a vacation either.

  2. FYI-it is IMPOSSIBLE to get the flu from intramuscular flu vaccine (as an aside, I have never heard of an IV vaccination- vaccines don't go to your veins)

    Have you heard of the Whooping cough issues in WA state?
    Have you heard how all of Jenny McCarthy's concerns around thimerosal were totally BS and debunked? -
    Do you have any actual evidence to support your fears and concerns? Because there is a lot of evidence to refute the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) that you are spreading.

  3. Evidence to support my fears and concerns? I wasn't aware that my fears and concerns needed to be "supported." I'm not a Jenny McCarthy fan and I'm not a part of any "anti-vaccine movement." As my post states, I came across some information at my chiropractor's office and online which RAISED QUESTIONS. That's all. I don't think there's anything wrong with spurring people to question conventional thought on anything. If I'm "spreading" anything - and you give me more credit than I deserve - hopefully it's awareness of the need for critical thinking which is sadly lacking in many quarters.