HOUSTON (AP) — Medical officials and others have criticized a Houston city councilman's disparaging remarks about flu vaccinations and his comments that people "don't die from the flu."
The Houston Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/UCMQpC) that during a city council vote earlier this week to consider accepting $3.1 million in federal funding for childhood immunizations, councilman Jack Christie criticized flu vaccines. He later suggested the media is embellishing "the extreme fear of encouraging flu vaccinations."
Christie backed down somewhat from his comments Friday, indicating that what he meant to say was that "people should not die from the flu."
"Every year there's going to be a flu," he said, "and vaccines create synthetic immunity, which does not trump natural immunity to disease."
Christie, a chiropractor who has never gotten the flu shot, suggested the medical community should focus more on prescription drug abuse that claims thousands of lives annually in the U.S.
The U.S. is about halfway through this flu season, and officials say it's shaping up to be a worse-than-average season. New figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show widespread flu activity in all states but Tennessee and Hawaii.
Dr. Joshua Septimus, associate professor of internal medicine at Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, criticized Christie's comments.
"I'm furious that a public official would make such an irresponsible statement. If even one person dies as a result of his comment, then he (Christie) is responsible. A flu shot is one of the safest medical developments we have, and it saves lives," Septimus said.
Curtis Allen, a spokesman at the CDC in Atlanta, took issue with Christie's contention that people develop natural immunity to influenza.
"It doesn't matter how healthy you are, how much you exercise, how many vitamins you take or how much sleep you get," he said. "Anyone can be ill with influenza if they have not had a vaccine. Influenza can be a serious and deadly disease."
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com