IT IS TEMPTING to choose sides in the “debate” that is more like a circus of the media panicking and screaming “VACCINES ARE SAFE” (really? clearly not for everyone!) and the so-called “Anti-vax” (how I loathe that term, so I use “Vaccine Risk Aware”) side claiming that vaccines had nothing to do with the downturn of infectious pathogens (in some cases they didn’t – no vaccine for TB, for example, and it followed the same trend). When I say “claiming” I say it because the history of vaccination includes doctors exploring inoculations on their own dating far, far, far before disease rates were adequately tracked, and some vaccines confer partial immunity.
‘The Woe is Me’ Part
I’ve been harangued by pro-vax “trolls” and “shills” (although I try to never call them names) and by hard-core, self-described anti-vaxxers alike. The greater part of the AV crowd seems to get that I am just a scientist, and as such have to consider both sides of all of the evidence. But there are extremists who go around like some AV Taliban enforcers, beating up people who are not AV – “enough”. Some real characters have emerged, calling attractive activists “sluts” because, according to them, they won’t say the words “I am anti-vaccine”, accusing others as being plants, working for Pharma. I have an eyewitness to one particularly colorful account in which I spoke with such a person, who had been attacking a vaccine choice rights leader in CA. When I defended Mary Holland as clearly NOT being a paid Pharma misinformationist, he, just as readily called me “Satan’s C*cksucker”. And that was not the worst of what he called me.
So name-calling and shaming and divisive tactics are not working for Pharma. What’s worse for their chronic misinformation campaign, it seems that a type of horseshoe effect is occurring, where people on both regions of the spectrum of Vaccine Risk Admission are seeing the limitations of vaccines as deriving from, and informing on, the pathophysiological mechanisms of infectious disease inherent to the pathogens themselves.
Wait, I’ll back up. Suppose that a vaccine is known, in some people, to cause a condition. Because the vaccine caused the condition, and vaccines are medicine, we call that an Adverse Event.
Vaccine -> Condition A -> Adverse Event.
But if the actual infection causes the same condition, we call it “Disease”.
Infection -> Condition A -> Disease.
(Self-acknowledged hard-core AV’ers, I can hear your skin crawling. It gets better.)
Some examples of this of course come from observations such as :
Adenopathy (syn. lymphadenopathy) is side effect of the MMR (due to the mumps virus portion).
What’s another word for “lymphadenopathy”? MUMPS.
How about this one?
MMR can lead to a measles-like rash.
What’s another word for “measles-like rash”? Measles.
“About a week to 11 days after the MMR injection, some children get a very mild form of measles. This includes a rash, high temperature, loss of appetite and a general feeling of being unwell for about two or three days.”
Sounds like the measles vaccine can cause measles to me…
Check out Reshma et al (2008), who found that 5% of cases of acute flu infection were associated with Acute Childhood Encephalitis. They didn’t consider the vaccination status of the patients in their study, however. And there are numerous Emerging Infectious Disease (CDC) publications that report ACE associated with H1N1 flu infection. Again, no attempts are made to consider vaccination – of any kind – of those who had the flu virus. [Feel free to submit evidence to contrary below].
It is remarkable how we keep running into cases in which the side effects of the vaccine are remarkably similar to the diseases itself.
The Autoimmune Theory of Pathogenesis from Infection: It’s not the Bug that Kills You, It’s Your Immune System
One extremely under-appreciated researcher in the study of infectious disease is Darja Kanduc at the University of Bari, Italy. Check out her most recent study:
Cytomegalovirus infection: the neurodevelopmental peptide signatures.
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: HCMV infection may cause neurodevelopmental disorders, including intellectual disability, hearing loss, cortical malformations, and calcifications. Theorizing about the still unknown molecular basis of HCMV-related diseases, this study analyzes the peptide sharing between HCMV, strains AD169 and Merlin, and human proteins, searching for shared sequences that might lead to crossreactive autoimmune injuries in the brain during immune responses following HCMV infection.
RESULTS: Numerous HCMV peptides (ranging from 9 to 13 mer in length) are disseminated through hundreds of human proteins. The peptide sharing mostly involves crucial neurodevelopmental antigens such as PITX3, implicated in the differentiation of meso-diencephalic dopaminergic neurons; SIX3, which controls proper anterio-posterior patterning of the diencephalon and formation of the rostral diencephalon during forebrain development; and ZIC2, which plays a fundamental role in the early stage of organogenesis of the central nervous system.
CONCLUSION: This study describes a HCMV vs human peptide overlap that may represent a crossreactive platform linking the pathologic sequelae of HCMV infection to the immune anti-HCMV response. The data could inform development of effective and safe immune therapeutic/preventive approaches against HCMV infections.
I highlight this particular study because molecular mimicry exists and occurs even during infection. This is not a new observation, of course, but it’s easy to forget that pathogenesis from infectious agents can involve our immune systems inadvertently turning against our tissues and organs. An important question is: how much of “disease” that we see from infections from pathogens is autoimmunity? The answer turns out to be – a lot.
We Literally Cannot See What We Will Not See
The polarization that tends to occur in a struggle for a fair and just reality can engender bias and denialism from both extremes, and when we live in those extremes, our brains can actually fail to register a fairly simple point that is right in front of us: the concern over autoimmunity from infections may exist, although to a lesser extent, compared to vaccines, but it may exist. It almost certainly occurs. In the extreme, Ebola Virus Disease is a an absolute torrent of cytokines signaling infection. We’ll come back to the “lesser extent” in a while.
Meet Dr. Kanduc. She has an enviable curriculum vitae – with plenty of studies examining the occurrence of peptide sequences shared both between pathogens and humans. The nice thing about her work is that it produces testable hypotheses that call out, like all important hypotheses, to be, above all, tested. Each string of amino acids found in common (between humans and pathogens) can be checked in a number of ways, the most important of which is the examination of patients’ blood samples for cross-reactive antibodies – antibodies that react both to the host (human) protein and to the pathogen’s protein carrying the epitope.
Remarkably, after all of the backlash due to illness and sickness associated with vaccination (as perceived by the vaccine risk aware), Pharma has yet to use the knowledge presented by Dr. Kanduc – a gift – seriously – to make their vaccines safer. This is in spite of a US Congressional mandate to make vaccines safer (National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act). They do not screen their vaccines for the presence of epitopes that are very similar between humans and pathogens. And while this may seem complex, or costly, if it is, we’re sorry Pharma. Sometimes things are just, well, hard. We’re sure you can do it. C’mon. Give it try! [Comment below with examples of where Pharma has screened viral or bacterial proteins for homology to human proteins and removed them from their formula for a vaccine, if you can. I want to hear it. I REALLY want to hear it.]
In looking over Dr. Kanduc’s work, the plethora of findings are astounding. Initially, they were exploratory, demonstrating the principle (e.g.,:
Trost, B, G Lucchese, A Stufano, M Bickis, A Kusalik, D Kanduc D 2010. No human protein is exempt from bacterial motifs, not even one. Self Nonself 1:328-334.
Then they became proscriptive searches for “non-cross-reactive, specific and broadly protective immune responses against” ebolavirus, for one, with warnings against developing a vaccine focused exclusively on the glycoprotein. She found that a mere 6.6% of epitopes in Ebola virus were sufficiently different from human proteins to insure no autoimmune mediated illness as a result of vaccination. Did they listen? Unlikely. [Comment below with evidence that Ebola vaccine researchers heeded Dr. Kanduc’s findings, if you can].
Kanduc D. 2016. Peptides for Anti-Ebolavirus Vaccines. Curr Drug Discov Technol. 13(4):225-231.
The HPV vaccine has a problem because it contains peptides that are likely to produce secondary immune thrombocytopenia – and antiphospholipid antibodies (trust me, we need our phospholipids):
Bizjak M, Bruck O, Kanduc D, Praprotnik S, Shoenfeld Y. 2016. Vaccinations and secondary immune thrombocytopenia with antiphospholipid antibodies by human papillomavirus vaccine. Semin Hematol. 53 Suppl 1:S48-50. doi: 10.1053/j.seminhematol.2016.04.014.
Collateral autoimmune reactions are predicted for measles, (immunodeficiency proteins), mumps (spermatogenesis-associated proteins), pertussis (sudden infant death proteins), influenza A H1N1 (human axon guidance proteins)… injection/infection. The list goes on, and on, and on, and on…
Her work includes the appreciation of the role of genetic variation as well. A single change in a protein – a single amino acid substitution – can mean the difference between autoimmune encephalomyelitis and no particular pathological reaction. Thus, genetic screens to find people who have proteins too similar to pathogens in vaccines should be a priority as well. I can imagine a clinical targeted exome test of all proteins with epitopes with >90% similarity to any pathogens in vaccines that checks for mutations in newborns in that brings their own epitopes close to the pathogens’ amino acid sequence.
RELATIVE RISK: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
THE DEBATE over vaccines often comes down to a hypothetical comparison between the rates of serious illness (morbidity) and death (mortality) from the pathogen vs. the vaccine. It would be really useful to be able to know EITHER of these statistics, but the sad fact is that we really do not – and cannot – know the rates of either, in part due to the existence of the other, and due to widespread vaccine risk denialism. Vaccines have contributed (at least partly, but not mostly) to the reduction in the overall transmission rate of many pathogens, and in so doing, have reduced, for a number of generation, the chances that a general knowledge of the morbidity and mortality due to infection. Thank goodness, right? Who knows?
What cannot be measured cannot be known. Attempts to express the risks of morbidity and mortality in the US have led to the use of statistics from developing countries including some in Africa, where vitamin D3 is not abundantly available.
Sanitation and the practice of isolating patients seems to explain the majority of the reduction in infectious diseases, including those targeted by vaccines.
Similarly, pathogens’ existence, and the march to convince every man, woman, and child to vaccinate against every pathogen has resulted in such widespread vaccine risk denialism that it really is Impossible – with a capital “I” – to derive a reasonable estimates of morbidity and mortality from vaccines. Starting from doctors’ and doctors’ offices, many of whom/which blithely inform patients “I/We are sure it wasn’t the vaccine”, when presented with a child w/say, seizure, to MDs who testify in public hearings making outlandish, unfounded claims such as “You can’t blame the vaccines”, to the adoption of a voluntary (as in non-compulsory) system for accepting reports of vaccine adverse events (VAERS), complete with a specific disclaimer that no one can ever use any of the reports to infer causality, accompanied by government reports that claim the opposite- that VAERS is very good system for measuring injury rates.
Then we have the media (“Vaccines Are Safe”) vs. the Supreme Court (“Vaccines are Unavoidably Unsafe”) – the information and disinformation campaigns present a schizophrenic view of vaccine risk that makes objective assessment difficult, to say the least.
THE TWO SIDES of Vaccine Risk Aware individuals and Vaccine Risk Denialists are a far cry from “Anti-vax” and “Pro-vax”. The VRA side includes the extreme AVer’s, who mostly likely remember the last time they saw their son or daughter smile, only to be told by people they once trusted “It Wasn’t the Vaccine” or “Correlation Does Not Imply Causation” or other condescending messages offered in poor taste, and without an ounce of understanding of the loss and grieving experienced by parents of vaccine injured or killed children. It also includes people who want to skip one vaccine, or a few, or space them out. People are not “Anti-vax” out of stupidity, or insanity, and certainly (in my experience) out of ignorance. They truly are merely Vaccine Risk Aware. Some are more averse to risks than others, for sure. But it’s not about vaccines. It’s about Risk from vaccines.
It’s Your Right to Choose or Refuse, and it’s Your Responsibility to Respect Others’s Rights to Do So
It amazes me to watch moms and dads whose kids are no longer risk, but instead are already injured, stick their social necks out to protect the kids of people who often think they are, shall we say, a little off. They’re not off. They are humanitarians.
It’s not really about Vaccine Risk Denialism vs. Vaccine Risk Awareness, either. It’s about Pro-Choice (right to choose or refuse), and Anti-Choice (society/state will make the choice for you). This has certainly crystallized with the imprisonment of Rebecca Bredow in Michigan, who, under Michigan law, has every right to opt out (as in not participate) in the vaccination of her child. Almost as if to make her decision right, Judge Karen McDonald changed custody from legal custody (Rebecca) with medical choice responsibilities to 50:50 custody, giving the ex-husband the legal right then to have their child vaccinated, against the mothers’ wishes. (What is most disturbing is that this occurred AFTER she imprisoned Ms. Bredow. The child has received 4/8 vaccines so far). Federal and State law on informed consent is clear – Rebecca Bredow had – and has- every right to opt out of vaccination or any other medical procedure, and where Judge McDonald thinks the legislation giving her (and every parent) that right will be an interesting thing to try to find out.
Vaccines are not Nature, they are man-made risk. Man-made risks must come with personal choice. And with personal choice comes the responsibility of Government and Pharma, and the AAP to be adults and communicate plainly, and clearly, and completely, the full risk of all medical procedures, including vaccination. As they are required to by law. Informed consent (or refusal) is the law. RESPECT for others’ rights to choose or refuse is needed. Coercion is not only wrong – it’s illegal.
The Lesser Extent
SO WHERE DO two sides of the argument – whichever labels you choose to use – have a common enemy? Molecular Mimicry (homology) causing illness on the other side. There are a couple of important differences between exposure to autoimmunogenic peptides during infection and a vaccination exposure to keep in mind.
Aluminum, and mercury.
These substances compound the risk of immunological aberrations. Aluminum hydroxide is included in many vaccines, and is also used in animal studies to produce allergies, food allergies, and autoimmune conditions. They specifically increase the risk of cross-reactive antibodies – in a reliable and consistent manner. Mercury, in the meantime (specifically thimerosal) disrupts our ability to properly shorten the proteins for our immune system response. That’s not good for children and other people.
The false diatribes from the so-called Pro-Vax (Anti-Choice) side includes claims that our side (VRA) moves goal-posts and play whack-a-mole. But it’s not our fault that vaccines contain neurotoxins, nor it is our fault that so much was done to change the public’s perception to accept public health policies not based on science, but instead lettting policy determine the outcome of science to the extent that vaccine safety “science” is not recognizable as science anymore.
The Futility of Impossible Decrees
Mandates are decrees by legislatures that are rather impossible to make manifest. This type of governing reminds me of a story of a king who did not want to die, so he issued a decree forbidding himself from dying. Mandates and misinformation campaigns do not reduce vaccine injury rates. They increase the total number of injured people, growing (as I’ve pointed out to Sanjay Gupta) the Vaccine Risk Aware Army.
Vaccine Risk Denialism is just as futile as mandates. In the fable, however, only the king dies.
-James Lyons-Weiler, PhD