Flu season is around the corner, and while I’m not going to tell anyone over 65 to avoid getting a flu shot, I am going to share the dark truth about the jab that your doctor won’t tell you.
Here it is, in all its burnished glory: flu shots don’t do much good for those over 65! The Center for Disease Control now openly admits that the so-called more powerful and efficacious flu shots designed for elders bring the effectiveness up to just 26.5% compared with the “normal” flu shot which achieves a dismal 24% effectiveness in this age group. Even the placebo works about 33% of the time!
Why do older folk not see benefits from flu shots? It’s simple: because their immune systems are in decline. It all stems from declining hormone levels.
Here comes the science: there is an amazing job which certain specialized immune cells do called phagocytosis, which is gobbling up and dissolving bacteria, parasites, and viruses. It’s the same process our bodies utilize for getting rid of dead and dying cells. Key to this process of self defense is estrogen, that most amazing of hormones, and the first response of the immune system to invaders.
But there is also an adaptive immune system, which communicates with the innate immune system, “learning” what is actually invading the body and then making highly specific antibodies to fight the specific invader both in the future and in the present, which also require estrogen to do this work.
It’s a beautiful, interlinked system of immune functions, designed to recognize invaders, neutralize and kill them, and then create antibodies which continue to defend the body against that invader in the future. But here’s the kicker: estrogen in both sexes declines with age, reducing this capability.
Men make essential estrogen within various organs in the body, via the conversion of testosterone into estradiol. Unfortunately, male levels of testosterone typically fall significantly with age. Women, of course, must all experience menopause, losing ovarian estrogen production, and losing the robustness of their immune system with it.
This combination of reduced innate and adaptive immune systems which comes with the hormonal changes of aging results in the inevitably high failure rate of elders to vigorously create antibodies to flu vaccine. And that’s the awful truth!
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