It’s that time of year again…

That would be flu vaccine time…

The issue has recently come up in the Italian MGUS Facebook group to which I belong. The group’s founder asked us if we were having a flu shot or not. To my surprise, ten out of fourteen people have thus far answered “no,” which is a rather interesting outcome…

I’ve undoubtedly written about this before, but repetitions have never killed anyone, so here goes: I had a flu shot every year for about four years after progressing from MGUS to SMM (in 2005). Years ago, when I asked for my hematologist’s advice, she said she didn’t think the vaccine would do me any good, but I could have it if I wanted it. My family doctor instead thought it would be a good idea. So I had it. And I still got the flu. Every year.

Sick and tired of getting the flu in spite of the vaccine, I decided NOT to get a flu shot last year. As expected, the flaming bothersome bug visited my home again. But I really wasn’t any sicker than when I’d had the vaccine. I mean, the vaccine didn’t attenuate my symptoms or help me recover more quickly.

So I’m not going to have the flu shot this year, either.

But there is more.

I recently watched an interview with Dr. James Berenson, a myeloma specialist whom I highly respect: About 12 minutes into the interview, he says that flu vaccines probably don’t work very well in myeloma patients who have what we call  immunoparesis who don’t make antibodies very well. My case, exactly. Dr. Berenson adds that these patients probably have pretty darned poor immune responses to immunizations. That being said, he adds, we still recommend it

Now that last bit, “we still recommend it,” is really puzzling to me. I mean, if the flu vaccine doesn’t work very well for patients with lowered immunity, why is it still administered to them? The only answer that makes any sense is that the vaccine-producing drug companies have to sell their products no matter what…There may of course be another explanation…one that isn’t as exasperating. If there is, I’d like to read or hear it.

Another point: day before yesterday I read a rather alarming Science Daily article about a group of Dutch researchers who examined the effects of the flu vaccine on two groups of children, one with cystic fibrosis (= these kids were vaccinated every year) and one with no health issues (the healthy “control” group, which had never had the flu vaccine): (by the way, there is a link to the study abstract at the end of the SD article).

Results: In unvaccinated children, the investigators found that the number of virus-specific T cells rises with age, while such an increase was absent in children vaccinated annually. In fact, vaccination appeared to interfere with induction of such killer T cells…So, basically, as the unvaccinated kids got older, their levels of these virus-specific T cells (more specifically, virus-specific CD8+ T cells, as we learn from the abstract) kept increasing. However, and this is the scary part, the vaccine actually interfered with the formation of these killer cells in the vaccinated children, leaving them more exposed to new flu strains…

Further on, we can read that Annual flu vaccines are effective against seasonal flu, but could leave people more vulnerable to novel pandemics…Not good…not good at all. We don’t want to lower our immune response to any new flu strains, do we?

Of course, this is only ONE study. Of course, this study was carried out on children, not adults. But it has reinforced my own personal view that flu vaccines are not at all useful in my already immunosuppressed situation. On the contrary, they might be harmful.

I suppose the obvious conclusion is that I will never again have another flu shot. Of course, this is just my opinion, and I’m certainly not advising anyone to follow in my steps. Always ask your doctor/s about this sort of stuff. Oh, one more thing: if you do get the vaccine, avoid the type that contains thimerosal or/and squalene.

So, what am I going to do to help my immune system this winter?

  • Increase my intake of vitamin D. Incidentally, here is some information I found just the other day on vitamin D’s general health benefits (a Harvard’s School of Public Health web page):
  • Be super extra amazingly careful about washing my hands and not touching my face at all when I’m out and about. That won’t be difficult, since I’m maniacally careful anyway.
  • Whenever a friend waves his/her fork or glass in my face and says “hey, taste this fabulous whateverthingamajig,” I’ll say, “no thanks.” I don’t care how healthy that friend looks. From now on, no…tastes! 🙂
  • Speaking of friends, if one of my card-playing buddies is not feeling well or has a cough, I won’t expose myself to her/his germs. Huge sacrifice, that one, since I love spending time with them…
  • Thanks to a tip from a blog reader, I’m already taking zinc, not around the time I take curcumin, though, to avoid any possible interferences.
  • Sleep sleep sleep. I haven’t been sleeping enough lately, mainly because of worrying about my new classes and trying to do too much in general. Yesterday I collapsed into bed and slept for a good part of the afternoon. So yes, I clearly need to modify my sleep patterns.  
  • My own stress levels are ok, I think, but if yours are high, try to bring them down. Stress lowers your immune system defences…
  • Goes without saying: a good diet, with plenty of those cruciferous veggies, artichokes, celery, parsley, garlic, onions and so on. And drinking plenty of water. 

I can’t think of anything else…let’s see…basic hygiene, getting plenty of rest, taking vitamin D in addition to the usual curcumin etc., eating well and drinking a lot of water. What have I missed?


  1. Ciao Margaret
    in your list you forgot walks in the fresh air or a round on the bike. One hour per day in the fresh air and natural light (sun) would be fantastic.
    And then a hot cup of tea with ginger.
    Add to that a purring cat.

  2. Hello Margaret,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, may comment in a bit more depth later if I have the time, but just wanted to say this now so I don’t forget:
    it seems vitamin A may be another vitamin to keep in mind for immunity — see this Science Daily article ‘UK Women at Risk from Vitamin A Deficiency’ I’m definitely not an expert on immunology but looking around on PubMed it seems vit.A does have significant immune effects.
    Thank you for blogging!

  3. Can you please tell me whether you take curcumin on an empty stomach or a full stomach? I take 4 grams a day after meals but I have read some opinions that curcumin should be taken on an empty stomach. I appreciate your advice.

  4. I swore I would NEVER have a flu shot YEARS ago.
    So have never had one.
    I researched a lot about them, and decided definitely NO !!!!!
    My 75 yr old brother has had one each year for the past decade and stopped 2 yrs ago, he said he has never been so sick since he started having those shots, in fact the very first year he thought he was going to die.

  5. What did you miss
    Try Dr Linus Pauling and Vit C.
    I studied this 18 yrs ago, and working with children always had one or two colds/flu a year.
    I put into practicew hat he said, and I have had 2 colds in those 18 years,and it was only when the moment I thoght I was getting a cold I went to take the 4g Vit C and had none in stock so would wake the next day, and the cold had arrived.
    Thi is why the ONLY thing I will take for my immune system is the liposomol Vit C to ward off any cold or flu at the immediate time it hits.

  6. Hi Margaret, for what it is worth. I have smoldering light chain only (kappa) myeloma which tends to cause immunoparesis in all three Igs. Two of my Igs are now in the low normal range—curcumin, etc? I see two myeloma experts, one at UPenn and the other at the NIH. Both independently recommended the flu shot and the equally important pneumococcal shot. In my case, I was told there was a reasonable chance both would confer almost full or partial immunity. Both doctors are internationally recognized experts on myeloma and I trust their judgement, particularly the NIH doctor. Regards, Terry from NJ

  7. I often just tell the docs that I already had the flu shot. Last August, my very smart GP just up and asked me what was my opinion about vaccines. She’s one of my smartest docs and how she knew I was not getting the flu vaccines I don’t know. I told her about Dr. Berenson (he’s been saying these things for a long time) and about research you mentioned and about my own unscientific concern to not aggravate the specific antibiodies that might have caused the abnormal protein in the first place. (No one knows how to know what those antibiodies might be, so I hear). Then there is my own questioning that since vaccines do attach to the IgG Kappa antibiody to do their good work, and my problem protein is IgG Kappa is that a potential problem? And how awesome was my GP to ask my opinion right up front and patiently listen? If she had disagreed, I would have been much more likely to listen to her. Don’t you wish now that there was a “like” button so as not to get all this. Anyway, thank you again for your post.

  8. And thank you for the new research about the T cells. That is very interesting and scary for children if it is true. I hope that research is followed up for sure.

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