Flu Shots and Alzheimers
The Beacon; making money by scaring old folks.

On Sep 28, 2011, at 10:12 PM, Grant MacLaren emailed beaconnews@charter.net:

Editor and Publisher Dennis West,
I am 75, and my mother died with Alzheimer's Disease.
I read in your September 23, 2011 edition of The Beacon that multiple consecutive flu shots will increase the chances of me developing Alzheimer's Disease by a factor of 10.
Is this true? Should I have a flu shot this year?
Will flu shots cause cognitive dysfunction as claimed in you publication?
If the claims are not true, why do you permit such advertising?
It certainly frightens this old man.
-=Grant MacLaren=-

Following from page 10 of The Beacon, September 23, 2011.
Published by West Publishing and Advertising, Williams Bay, WI 53191:

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The publisher tells us 20,000 copies of The Beacon are distributed every other week and his goal "has always been for readers of The Beacon to say, 'I didn't know that; that's interesting."

(Mr. West responded by email; emphasis added by Grant MacLaren)

Mr. McLaren (sic): I address you as Mr. McLaren (sic) because you are older than I, but only by seven years. So I am not sanguine about your concern. I wish I could say whether or not Dr. Bria's allegations are true. He apparently believe they are and quotes other people to back up his opinion. I was very surprised at his contention that flu shots could contribute to the onset of Alzheimer's. That is why the insertion is clearly labeled "Advertisement." I know Dr. Bria and respect his integrity. He has advertised in The Beacon since he entered practice in Fontana. As to the veracity of his opinion, I can only say that he apparently believes what he says or he wouldn't spend the money to say it. If I were you, I would ask my physician what he or she thinks of this information and be guided by the opinion you value most.
Thank you for taking the time to write to us.
Dennis West, Editor
The Beacon

On Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 8:41 AM, XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX emailed:

This was in the Elkhorn paper and Grant asked me to ask you what you thought about it. I told him you would say it was a bunch of hooey, because you get a flu shot every year.

Grant had a friend that because of a flu shot became paralyzed in his legs. His friend is now using a walker and gaining some mobility but it has been several years.
Love, Mom

From: XXXX XXXXXXXX ("Mom's" son, a U.S. Army doctor)
To: (Mom)
Sent: Tue, Oct 4, 2011 3:58 pm
Subject: Re: Flu shots vs. Alzheimers

You are right,
The article sounds like a bunch of hooey to me. I would be very surprised if there is any mercury in the flu shot. The article posted was an advertisement by a chiropractor. There have been rare cases of Guillan-Barre thought to be related to the flu shot. Guillan-Barre is an autoimmune nerve disease that can result in paralysis and I think this is the case with Grant's friend. I suspect that any process that revs up the immune system can slightly increase the risk of any autoimmune process although there is not much evidence to support this in regards to vaccinations.

I don't think that there is any scientific evidence to support an increased risk of Alzheimer's with repeated influenza vaccinations. There may be some numeric data that shows that populations that get the flu shot have higher incidence of Alzheimers but that is likely related to the fact that the majority of individuals getting the flu shot are elderly and will have a higher incidence of Alzheimer's regardless of the flu shot. All I can say is CHIROPRACTORS!!!! I must admit that we do have a good number chiropractors here at our hospital and they do practice good medicine and they admit that a large part of what they do for patients seems to equate to the placebo effect.

October 7, 2011 10:29:15 PM CDT, Grant MacLaren emailed:


Thanks very much to you and XXXX.

I got my flu shot on Wednesday. (I was asked about " Guillan-Barre", but had no idea what it is.)

The editor of the Beacon would flunk a logic course, methinks.

"I can only say that he apparently believes what he says or he wouldn't spend the money to say it."

. . . Could it be that he spends the money because his Beacon ads scare people, especially older folks like me, to bring him patients? I think so, and have little respect for false advertising.


Dear Reader,
Grant MacLaren here. If you think it inappropriate for a newspaper to publish advertising that scares readers with unproven claims, please let the publisher know. You can do so with a simple email to the following address:

(Just click on address, change wording as desired.)


Following are a few responses, some with text of their message to the editor of The Beacon:

10/10/11: Mr. West,
Your desire to gain advertising dollars by publishing sensationalistic (and unproven) claims about Alzheimer's and flu shots is the height of shoddy journalism. I don't really care WHAT others "believe" about flu shots, your actions besmirch a once-proud profession.
-=Michael McLane=-

10/10/11: Hi Grant:
Your article on flu shots and Alzheimers was interesting, but I agree, very misleading. I sent an e-mail to the editor stating such. I also wondered if he charged the chiropractor the going advertising rate to put that article in the paper. Whenever I see anything about Alzheimers I read it as my husband has this horrible disease. There may be a few half truths in the article, but I can't believe the statement about the mercury.
I remember you the first day you walked into biology class.
Marlene Weichmann

10/10/11: Thanks. - I did send him a letter. Here's something else they don't tell you: if you have any kind of immune system condition, you should not have a flu shot. They never ask when you go to get a shot about this. My sister became violently ill for weeks, and THEN found out she should not have gotten one. She would have been better off with the flu.
I myself have gotten only one - about three years ago, and probably won't have another -- not that I'm so anti-flu shot, but look what happened with HRT medication, and other medications that have proved not-so-hot after the fact.
Thanks for looking out for us older people.
Sara (Martinez) Spitz

10/10/11: Editor:
I saw the ad in The Beacon indicating that flu shots can cause Alzheimer's disease. I contacted my doctor as I was due to go to her for my annual shot. Her assessment of your ad was that it was false advertising. I agree. Medical advertising should require more scrutiny. My advice: pull the ad.
Jane McBride

Mr. West's response to previous email:

10/10/11: You have done what I have recommended everyone do; namely, ask his or her doctor. The piece in question was not "reporting," but was clearly labeled as an advertisement and placed by someone who has advertised with us for some time. If you have a problem with the content, you should contact the advertiser. I do, however, appreciate your opinion. The ad in question contained an opinion. Whether I agree with it or not is immaterial. I do, however, hope the advertiser will not ask to run it again.
Dennis West, publisher
The Beacon

10/10/11: Editor, Shame on you for allowing your paper to go to print with false medical claims. Man up and write an RESEARCHED article about these claims of flu shots.
You are spreading propaganda that the flu shot is detrimental to society, where in fact, it is disrespectful to your community to NOT get one.

Mr. West's response to previous email:

10/10/11: I hesitate to reply to someone who uses the phrase "man up," but will say that the piece in question was not "reporting," but was clearly labeled as an advertisement and placed by someone who has advertised with us for some time. If you have a problem with the content, you should contact the advertiser. Dennis West, publisher The Beacon

10/10/11: dumb, dumb, dumb....I sent the letter with my own choice words!

10/13/11 -- Hi Grant,
Freedom of speech unfortunately permits freedom of falsehood. You think what the chiropractor says is hokum, and I agree. Just because he quotes some doctor and says the doc has great credentials doesn't prove the doc really does is correct. A web search using 'Flu Shots and Alzheimer's' turns up more of the same hokum, but also turns up some myth busting.

From the website of the Alzheimer's Association, alz.org, debunking myths about the disease, I found the following: "Reality: A theory linking flu shots to a greatly increased risk of Alzheimer's disease has been proposed by a U.S. doctor whose license was suspended by the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners. Several mainstream studies link flu shots and other vaccinations to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and overall better health."

What to do? Start with getting more facts, followed by a letter to the editor with those facts. Potential problem: if the chiropractor is paying for the print, the editor won't want to turn off the money spigot. Other steps? Write to the licensing board for chiropractors? See if the FTC (for false advertising, www.ftc.gov) or the CDC (www.cdc.gov) would take an interest? Good luck.
Keith Olson

Complaint filed as suggested.

I appreciate your concern re: flu shots & Alzheimer's. As a physician, I have not been aware of any proven association.
By the way, I and my wife received our annual flu shots last week.

Dennis Thompson, M.D.
Clinical Professor, Plastic Surgery, UCLA

Found in the Oct. 7, 2011 edition of

An advertisement

Another advertisement

And another

And another