MAYBE IF WE REALLY STRETCH THINGS WE CAN SCARE THE PUBLIC ON THE FLU. The number of annual flu deaths in the US most often thrown around is 30,000. Wow. That’s a lot of deaths! (not nearly on the magnitude of smoking, obesity and prediabetes, however). 30,000 deaths should be scary enough to get everyone running out to get vaccinated at all costs. But what if we really look at the CDC’s own numbers. First, let’s look at what they mean when they say “flu deaths.” At the leanest definition, we take cases of people who died of pneumonia and sometimes had the presence of the virus confirmed (but not usually). Annual deaths here are 6309, with 90% of these over 65 years of age. But let’s fluff it up and throw respiratory and circulatory deaths into the mix and it looks like a much scarier 23,607. So, we are throwing all deaths for these reasons during flu season into “influenza related deaths” despite the fact that there are other viruses that cause these same deaths (most notably RSV). This means that even the 6309 may be stretching it quite a bit. THEN, look at how many people without underlying respiratory conditions like emphysema or asthma are affected and you’re going to need a microscope. So what does this all mean? It means that when you couple the real numbers of flu deaths with a very low effectiveness of flu vaccination one has to wonder exactly why we are inundated with ads everywhere we turn to get our flu vaccine. One wonders when you will be offered flu vaccination right after the “would you like a car wash today” prompt at the gas pump.