Should You Get Immunized Against Swine Flu?

Julian Whitaker, MD

“White House warns of massive swine flu spread. Dire report says 50 percent infection rate, up to 90,000 deaths possible this flu season from H1N1.”

“CDC leery of estimates about swine flu’s toll. Health officials say scenario of up to 90,000 deaths not likely.”

“US advisers said about half the US population, or 160 million people, should get vaccinated against the new pandemic influenza strain, with pregnant women and healthcare workers at the front of the line.”

“The US won’t have nearly as much swine flu vaccine ready by mid-October as long predicted—45 million doses instead of the anticipated 120 million.”

“School closures urged to prevent spread of swine flu. Leading experts say closures may need to be ‘prolonged’ in order to be effective.”

“CDC: Keep schools open if swine flu hits.”

By the time you read this, who knows what will be going on with the swine flu. Every week, there’s a new proclamation conflicting that from the week before. Despite the lack of consensus among official forecasts, however, one underlying message remains consistent: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I’m no soothsayer, so I cannot predict how all this will play out—although if I were a betting man, I’d go with the less severe scenario. Nevertheless, I can offer some advice on how to increase your chances of fending off the flu, which I hope will give you some peace of mind during these stressful time.

Defend Yourself With Vitamin D

Ensuring that you have an adequate blood level of vitamin D may be your best protection against all types of influenza. Flu season is synonymous with the winter months, when sun exposure is minimal and vitamin D levels are at their lowest. This is true in every part of the world. That’s why winter is the ideal time to beef up your vitamin D stores. The most predictable way to do this is to take vitamin D supplements. How much you should take depends on a number of factors, such as your age, skin color, geographical location, and frequency of sun exposure. My best recommendation is to have your vitamin D blood level tested and take enough to bring it up into the optimal range of 50–70 ng/mL.

Government studies reveal that three out of four adults and teenagers have vitamin D levels below 30 ng/mL, and children fare little better. These are serious deficiencies that can impair many aspects of your health. If you take away one thing from this article, it should be the importance of getting a handle on your vitamin D level.

According to a 2009 study, vitamin D also has potential for treating flu. If you do get sick, you might consider increasing your daily dose to 50,000–100,000 IU for up to seven days. This may seem excessive, but let me assure you that, over the short term, it’s perfectly safe. In fact, some experts recommend up to 1,000 IU per pound of body weight for a week to knock out infectious illnesses.

Other Immune-Boosting Supplements

There’s a whole arsenal of other immune-boosting supplements, and one I’m very enthusiastic about is EpiCor. Derived from baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), it enhances multiple aspects of the immune system. In addition to increasing the efficiency of natural killer cells, which attack and dispatch cells infected with viruses and cancer, EpiCor helps coordinate the immune response. It also raises levels of protective antibodies produced in the mucosa of the mouth, eyes, nose, and other areas.

EpiCor was discovered after owners of a company that makes nutritional additives for animal feed suspected that their employees’ very low rates of sick leave and insurance claims might be due to their exposure to a baker’s yeast culture. This led to further research, including a 2008 12-week, placebo-controlled trial which showed that individuals who took 500 mg of EpiCor per day had significantly fewer flu and cold symptoms.

Another protective supplement is probiotics. Although these beneficial bacteria are best known for their effects on gastrointestinal health, they’re also a boon for the immune system. You may not realize this, but 80 percent of your immune system resides in and around your gut. Friendly microbes not only crowd out bad bugs but also participate directly in the immune response. In a study conducted earlier this year, children who took probiotic supplements daily for six months had significant reductions in fever, runny nose, and cough incidence and duration; antibiotic prescriptions; and days missed from school.

Other tried-and-true immune-enhancing favorites include echinacea, vitamin C, elderberry, colostrum, xylitol nasal spray, and the homeopathic flu remedy Oscillococcinum. The trick is to use one or a combination of these supplements for prevention, especially during the winter, and at the very first inkling of a viral illness, hit it with all you’ve got. (Oscillococcinum should only be used at the first signs of flu symptoms.)

Tamiflu—Or IV Vitamin C?

Should you come down with a fever, sore throat, cough runny nose, chills and aches, or other signs of swine or seasonal flu, you should also rest, drink a lot of fluids, and, to prevent passing it on to others, stay home until at least 24 hours after your fever subsides.

Serious sickness, of course, merits a visit to your doctor, who will probably prescribe an antiviral drug such as Relenza or Tamiflu. For $75 to $100, these meds may reduce the duration of your illness by a day or so, provided you take them within two days of symptom onset. But according to an August 2009 study, they are unlikely to prevent complications in children. And although they’re often taken as a preventive following viral exposure, they decreased flu incidence by only 8 percent, at best.

In addition to their meager benefits, antiviral medications have a number of side effects, such as headache, nausea, insomnia, confusion, and nightmares, which are particularly common in children. Nevertheless, governments around the world are stockpiling and distributing these drugs like crazy. (Roche expects Tamiflu sales to triple this year to $2 billion). There have already been reports of Tamiflu-resistant swine flu cases, and experts worry that indiscriminate use may actually fuel the epidemic.

There’s no way I would prescribe these medications. If you came to Whitaker Wellness to be treated for a viral illness, we’d hook you up to an IV and infuse large doses of vitamin C instead. When vitamin C blood concentrations reach therapeutic levels—which is possible only with intravenous administration—it becomes a pro-oxidant that kills viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells, but leaves healthy cells intact. I’m not saying that IV vitamin C is a cure-all, but it certainly reduces viral loads and helps your immune system regain the upper hand.

What About Vaccinations?

Your doctor will also likely encourage you to get vaccinated, and that means a seasonal flu shot plus two doses of the swine flu vaccine, spaced a few weeks apart.

I’m concerned about the safety of this new vaccine. Because pharmaceutical companies are frantically rushing it into production, clinical trials will necessarily be limited. This means that the hundreds of millions of people who opt for immunization will be little more than human guinea pigs. If adverse effects do occur, you have no legal recourse because all “individuals and entities” involved in the manufacture, distribution, and administration of the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine have near-complete liability immunity. In other words, you can’t sue for damages.

Safety aside, I remain unconvinced that the vaccine will offer much, if any, protection. Flu shots have a spotty record of efficacy. Studies published in prestigious medical journals show that seasonal vaccines work no better than placebo in children and older people, and in healthy adults, they reduce work absenteeism by less than one day.

I’m well aware of the history of H1N1 and how a related virus killed 40–50 million people in the 1918 global flu pandemic. I understand that this virus could theoretically mutate into a similarly lethal strain. However, most people who’ve come down with it so far, especially in this country, have had mild symptoms and a quick recovery. The majority who do develop serious problems have chronic illnesses or other preexisting problems.

Until we know more, I believe the best course of action is to boost your body’s ability to fight illness, take measures to avoid exposure, and refuse to buy into the hysteria. I personally plan to sit out what is shaping up to be the largest—and for pharmaceutical companies, the most profitable—mass vaccination program in history.


Get your 25(OH)D blood level tested through your doctor or visit to order a $40 blood spot test kit. Take enough supplemental vitamin D to bring your level into the 50–70 ng/mL range. My experience is that most adults need 5,000 IUs daily to achieve this level. (For those of you who’ve noticed, yes, my suggested doses have been inching upward.) Have your level retested after three months and adjust your dose accordingly. If you come down with the flu, you might want to try 50,000–100,000 IU daily for up to a week. Vitamin D is widely available. To order products containing higher amounts (5,000 and 50,000 IU), call the Whitaker Wellness Institute at (800) 810-6655.

Immune-boosting supplements are sold in health food stores and online. Epicor is an ingredient in my Rapid Immune Daily formula, available from Forward Nutrition at (800) 722-8008 and 


  • Cannell JJ, et al. On the epidemiology of influenza. Virology Journal. 2008 Feb 25;5(29).
  • Yamshchikov AV, et al. Vitamin D for treatment and prevention of infectious diseases: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Endocr Pract. 2009 Jul–Aug;15(5):438–449.
  • Moyad MA, et al. Effects of a modified yeast supplement on cold/flu symptoms. Urol Nurs. 2008 Feb;28(1):50–55.
  • Leyer GJ, et al. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children.Pediatrics. 2009 Aug;124(2):e172–129. Epub 2009 Jul 27.
  • Shun-Shin M, et al. Neuraminidase inhibitors for treatment and prophylaxis of influenza in children: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BJM. 2009;339:b3172, Epub 2009 Aug 10.

Reprinted from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healingclick here