CDC’s new ‘wild to mild’ ad campaign hypes flu vaccines for kids, pregnant women
09/12/2023 // News Editors // Views

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week launched a new “Wild to Mild” ad campaign to “tame skepticism about flu vaccines,” CNN Health reported.

(Article by John-Michael Dumais republished from

The campaign, which will run on the radio and social media platforms starting this week, targets pregnant women and parents of young children “because vaccination rates are down in both of those high-risk groups,” said CNN.

Experts who spoke with The Defender, however, questioned the efficacy of flu vaccines and cautioned about their potential harms.

The CDC ads feature cute animal images, including one that depicts a tiger (“a ferocious animal”) and a kitten (“something that’s not scary”) designed to promote the idea that the flu vaccine, rather than preventing influenza altogether, will inhibit severe symptoms and yield a milder course of the illness.

The CNN article cited CDC data showing flu vaccination rates for pregnant women are down more than 16% since 2019 and 7% for children under 18. “That means more than 3.7 million people were unprotected during pregnancy over the past winter” along with “an estimated 32 million children,” CNN reported.

Erin Burns, M.A., associate director for communications for the Influenza Division at the CDC, told CNN the progress made to vaccinate pregnant women after the 2009 H1N1 pandemic has been “completely wiped out in the years since COVID-19.”

Focus groups run by the CDC showed that “most of the pregnant women had no intention of getting a flu vaccine and no awareness of the benefits it could bring them or their baby,” Burns said.

Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University and a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told CNN that “something was amiss” if doctors were not adequately informing pregnant women about the risks of the flu.

“Women who get influenza who are pregnant may have rates of complication that rival that of senior citizens,” Schaffner said, adding “They [doctors] have to get these messages out to women who come to them right now.”

Burns said mothers in focus groups found it “extremely motivating” when health educators explained that antibodies induced by flu shots could transfer to their babies and protect them after birth.

While seniors tend to understand their higher risk from the flu and therefore keep up with their shots, moms need more nudging, CNN reported.

According to CNN, Burns said the CDC felt cautious about claiming flu vaccines could attenuate illness, but since deepening its vaccine surveillance network, it found “strong and growing evidence” that the vaccine could “blunt a bout with the flu” and reduce doctor visits.

Schaffner said comparing the effectiveness of the flu vaccine to vaccines designed to eradicate diseases like measles, polio and whooping cough confuses people about what flu shots can do.

“With these respiratory viruses,” he said, “the vaccines aren’t very good at preventing milder disease. [But] we have to say … ‘here’s the benefit.’”

According to the CDC, all flu vaccines for the 2023-2024 season will be quadrivalent (i.e., targeting four different strains).

“Most will be thimerosal-free or thimerosal-reduced vaccines (91%), and about 21% of flu vaccines will be egg-free,” states the CDC website.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies show that thimerosal is a developmental neurotoxin.

The CDC is recommending the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, vaccines this fall for everyone, and also the COVID-19 vaccine or booster for people 6 months and older.

‘Basically, it does not work’

The CDC states that flu vaccine effectiveness can vary, citing studies over the past 10 years showing between 19% and 54% effectiveness. The major factors influencing vaccine effectiveness are a person’s age and health and how well the vaccines match the circulating virus strains.

Dr. Meryl Nass told The Defender the CDC claims that flu shots reduce flu severity “cannot be relied on” when the shots “fail to work to prevent infection.”

Nass pointed to four studies the CDC uses to support its new contention that flu shots reduce flu severity even if they do not prevent flu. “All four published studies have CDC authors, so the CDC cites itself to make this claim.”

Two of the papers, published in the journal Vaccine in 2018 and 2021, said Nass, start by acknowledging that the effect of influenza vaccination on influenza severity remains uncertain.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, former head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a paper published in January with co-authors Dr. David M. Morens and Jeffery K. Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D., said that vaccines for respiratory diseases are “decidedly suboptimal” and that new types of vaccines need to be developed.

“’Wild to Mild’ is a propaganda strategy to throw up against the facts,” Nass said, “that efficacy is often poor, that flu shots have never been shown to prevent deaths and that even Fauci has now admitted this.”

Commenting on the campaign, Dr. Peter McCullough told The Defender, “In the last several years the estimated vaccine efficacy of the influenza vaccine was statistically insignificant. Basically, it does not work.”

‘No data’ on safety of flu shots for pregnant women and their babies

According to Nass, in the past flu shots were not approved for pregnancy.

“They used to be labeled ‘Category C,’ which meant ‘no data in pregnancy,’” she said. “That system of specifying the pregnancy risk was junked to make way for verbiage instead.”

As an example of this “verbiage,” Nass referred to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) risk summary for the flu vaccine FLULAVAL, which states:

“All pregnancies have a risk of birth defect, loss, or other adverse outcomes. In the U.S. general population, the estimated background risk of major birth defects and miscarriage in clinically recognized pregnancies is 2% to 4% and 15% to 20%, respectively.

“There are insufficient data on FLULAVAL in pregnant women to inform vaccine-associated risks.”

The flu vaccines’ effect on lactation also is unknown, according to Nass. “Despite CDC recommending use in pregnancy for well over 10 years, they just have not looked,” she said.

According to the FDA, “Data are not available to assess the effects of FLULAVAL on the breastfed infant or on milk production/excretion.”

Brian Hooker, Ph.D., senior director of science and research at Children’s Health Defense and co-author of “Vax-Unvax: Let the Science Speak,” reviewed a 2021 study published in JAMA Network on flu vaccination during pregnancy.

The retrospective cohort study reviewed live births in Nova Scotia, Canada, from 2010-2014, with a follow-up in 2016. The authors concluded that “maternal influenza vaccination during pregnancy was not significantly associated with an increased risk of adverse early childhood health outcomes.” But, according to Hooker, the study failed to consider several key points.

The first shortcoming was that diagnoses considered in the study were based on emergency visits and hospitalizations only, not outpatient settings such as practitioner offices, where most diagnoses are made.

To support his criticism of this diagnostic bias, Hooker noted the study found only 1.1% cases of asthma while for the overall Canadian population, the asthma rate was 9.5%.

The study also inaccurately reported on the rates of ear infections in unvaccinated versus vaccinated groups, with the latter experiencing significantly higher rates.

The study showed a significant association between lower respiratory infection in babies for mothers vaccinated in the third trimester versus unvaccinated mothers, but “these results were summarily ignored by the study authors,” Hooker said.

Finally, the study’s “control diagnosis,” which it defined as “all-cause injuries,” showed a significantly higher incidence for children whose mothers were vaccinated, which, Hooker said, “casts a shadow of doubt on any conclusions made from this study.”

Hooker expressed concern that physicians would use the study to provide a “false assurance of safety” to pregnant women considering the flu vaccine.

Nass said the majority of claims filed and compensated in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) — which has paid out over $4 billion to date — are for injuries from the flu vaccine.

NVICP is part of the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. It was passed to exempt vaccine manufacturers from product liability, based on the legal principle that vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe” products.

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