CDC Launches New Ad Campaign To Hype Flu Jabs For Pregnant Women & Young Children

Despite long-observed ineffectiveness and safety concerns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a new “Wild to Mild” ad campaign which aims to “tame skepticism about flu vaccines“.

According to a report by CNN Health, the campaign, which was launched this week, will run on the radio and social media platforms to target pregnant women and parents of young children “because vaccination rates are down in both of those high-risk groups”.

The Defender reports: 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.

Ad campaign tempers expectations about respiratory vaccines

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.

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