Revealing the matrix

If your doctor has suggested that you get a pneumonia vaccination – especially if you’re in that group known as “seniors” – then I have important information you need to know before you make your decision.

In addition, I’ll tell you about an effective (and natural) method for protecting yourself from pneumonia that will probably do more good than any shot in the arm.


The fadeaway 

Among Americans who are over the age of 65, pneumonia is responsible for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and for more than 60,000 fatalities each year. So a truly effective pneumonia vaccine could save many lives, as well as a considerable amount of money spent on healthcare. Unfortunately, the existing vaccine is falling far short of effectiveness. And falling, and falling, and

When the vaccine was first introduced in the 1980s it was believed that a single shot would provide protection for life. When studies revealed that the vaccine didn’t offer enduring protection, the vaccine makers recommended that additional booster shots be given every five years. But this past winter the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published a study that showed how even the follow up booster shots don’t provide complete protection.

Then, late last month, the largest study ever on what is known as the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine lowered expectations even further. Researchers with the Center for Health Studies in Seattle, WA, examined the medical records of more than 47,000 subjects over the age of 65, from 1998 through 2001. Results showed that the pneumonia vaccination simply does not reduce the risk of pneumonia in older adults.



Double talk 

In spite of what could only be described as a disappointing result, researchers stated their support for the current recommendation that seniors should receive the vaccine. They based this on the fact that their data demonstrated that the vaccine reduces the risk of contracting the relatively uncommon form of pneumonia (called pneumococcal bacteremia). But the vaccine only reduces the risk by half. And only an estimated 6 out of 10,000 seniors even develop the disease.

By most accounts the vaccine is relatively safe and inexpensive, but when the chance of coming down with pneumococcal bacteremia is about the same as the chance of getting hit by lightening – and that’s WITHOUT the vaccination – why in the world would the Seattle research team stick with the recommendation that ALL seniors get vaccinated?

The answer to that almost certainly lies with the publisher of the study: the New England Journal of Medicine. Sometimes called the most prestigious medical journal in the world, NEJM is deeply ingrained in the mainstream medical establishment. In other words: you rarely see a study appear in NEJM that runs contrary to drug company interests. Especially when it involves vaccines, which HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., describes as the “golden goose” of pharmaceuticals.

It appears that with their recommendation the researchers were perhaps putting the most positive spin they could on the study’s conclusion that I’m sure didn’t please the pharmaceutical industry.



The dental connection 

Interestingly, if you’re over the age of 65 and your doctor suggests that you get a pneumonia vaccination, you might actually improve your protection against pneumonia by passing on the vaccine and making an appointment with your dentist to have your teeth cleaned.

It may seem odd, but regular cleaning of the teeth and gums by a dentist, coupled with good oral hygiene at home, is associated with a reduced risk of pneumonia, according to studies published in the Journal of Periodontology and the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. This is because bacteria that develop along the gum line often accumulate in the throat. When your immune system is not performing at an optimal level this can create respiratory problems such as pneumonia.

Dental bacteria can also be reduced by using a sugar substitute called xylitol, which was the subject of an e-Alert I sent you last winter (“Keep It Sweet” 2/25/03). This sweetener was developed in Finland more than 50 years ago, and research really does support the remarkable claim that xylitol (naturally found in many fruits and vegetables) may prevent tooth decay. Xylitol gum and lozenges have been developed to help fight bacteria that collect around the teeth and gums.



In the clear 

In the April 2003 HSI Members Alert we told you about a natural product developed from xylitol called Xlear (pronounced “clear”) – a nasal wash designed to cleanse bacteria, allergens and other irritants from the nasal passages, which helps to keep bacteria from collecting in the throat. This patented formula contains only purified water, xylitol, saline, and grapefruit seed extract, so it’s completely drug free, and safe enough to use with infants.

We learned about Xlear from HSI Panelist Linda Page, N.D., who recommends the nasal wash for colds, sinus infections, and allergies. Dr. Page believes so strongly in Xlear, that she now offers the nasal spray through her own Healthy Healing Center ( Xlear is also available directly from the manufacturer (, and at select retail outlets nationwide.

One place you almost certainly won’t find any mention of Xlear is in the New England Journal of Medicine. Xlear is natural, it’s not mainstream, it’s not raking in huge revenues for a drug company, and if it were pitted head-to-head against the pneumonia vaccine, it just might win. But that would be completely unacceptable to the New England powers that be.



To Your Good Health,
Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences InstituteSources:
“Effectiveness of Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine in Older Adults” New England Journal of Medicine, 2003 May 1;348(18):1747-55,
“Pneumonia Vaccine Ineffective for Elderly” Dr. Joseph Mercola, 5/17/03,
“Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Revaccination: Immunoglobulin g Seroconversion, Persistence, and Safety in Frail, Chronically Ill Older Subjects” Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 2003 Feb;51(2):240-5,
“Pneumonia Vaccine Not as Effective as Thought” Dr. Joseph Mercola, 2/26/03,
“How xylitol-conaining products affect cariogenic bacteria” Journal of the American Dental Association, 2002 April;133: 435-441,
“Cleaning Teeth Prevents Pneumonia in Nursing Homes” Dr. Joseph Mercola, 4/27/03,