CMI, vaccines, and vaccination
Published: 3 Sep 2018, last update 1 Aug 2022
Last updates include: Covid impairs future immune responses; Covid vs vaccine for pregnant women and their babies; Covid deaths likely understated by factor of 3; US Covid-19 hospitalization rate; Ivermectin study showing no effect; Corbevax non-profit vaccine, Long-haul Covid lung and heart damage, Martin Luther on whether to take medicine; Lifespan drop from COVID; Decoy receptor neutralizes Covid virus; US Army Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle (SpFN) Covid-19 vaccine; Luria–Delbrück experiment; Antibody-dependent Enhancement (ADE); Omicron; Chinese vaccines; VAERS reported vs. confirmed deaths; Updated Covid deaths, cases, and vaccination doses (including so-called booster shots); Links to videos of RNA and viral vector vaccines; Love thy neighbour; Reduced transmission; Paxlovid antiviral 89% effective?; Goal of endemicity; Molnupiravir antiviral; Monoclonal antibodies; Variants, mutation, and selection; Do Covid survivors need to be vaccinated?; 8 million Americans may have long-haul Covid; Burden of proof; Dexamethasone and Fluvoxamine treatments for Covid; Which vaccines are connected to fetal cells; Simpson’s paradox; Planned parenthood; Base-rate fallacy; T-cell responses to vaccines; Side-effects; Mask effectiveness; Novavax; HPV vaccine preventing cervical cancer; opening summary statement; Hydroxychloroquine; Trial volunteer numbers.
- Recombinant (subunit) vaccines
- Adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector vaccines
- RNA vaccines
- More Covid-19 vaccines
- Did nutrition and hygiene eliminate these diseases?
- Isn’t ‘natural immunity’ better?
- COVID-19 update: was the vaccine too rushed?
- Vaccines contain deadly poisons
- Egg protein
- Polyethylene glycol
- Bloodstream vs. ingestion?
- Toxins in perspective
- “I got influenza from the flu shot”
- “Vaccines cause autism”
- “More vaccinated kids become sick than unvaccinated kids”
- “Babies get too many vaccines at once”
- Antibody-dependent Enhancement (ADE)
- “Look at all the dangerous things listed in the package insert!”
- Vaccine injuries
- “God made a perfect immune system and doesn’t need our help”
- “Vaccination supporters are Big Pharma shills”
- “Vaccines contain parts of aborted babies”
- “Bill Gates supports vaccination to reduce population growth”
- “The HPV vaccine encourages sexual immorality”
- “The government should not force people to be vaccinated”
This article has become quite long (about 80 printed pages), so readers can skip directly to the summary of the main points. But the main text has much deeper explanations and supporting sources.
As a biblical, scientific organization, we often get asked by inquirers about our position on a range of related issues. One such issue is vaccinations. We realize that for some this is a highly charged issue that can engender strong emotions. Unfortunately, there is much confusion and even emotion, even in Christian circles, as a result of misinformation that is proliferated on the Internet. Often, with Christians, much of the thinking is driven by well-meaning, but misapplied biblical statements and, in some cases, even conspiratorial (anti-government or anti-establishment) constructs—an area outside of CMI’s purview.
CMI takes a generally pro-vaccination position, as the best trade-off in this fallen world, because the benefits overall greatly outweigh the harms. This is consistent with a Christian ministry, because disease and suffering are the results of the Curse at the Fall. Biblical writers praise God for healing, i.e. alleviating effects of the Curse, in Hosea 6:1, Job 5:18, and Psalm 147:3; Jesus exemplified this in His earthly ministry.
It is a scientific and historical fact that vaccines have saved millions of lives. Thus, as a part of our duty of care for our staff and supporters, we should support medical treatments with a proven record of high safety and effectiveness.
And at my suggestion, the CMI-US office, following the biblical principle of proper care for workers (Colossians 4:1, Ephesians 6:9), pays for influenza (‘flu’) shots for all employees and their dependent family members, if they choose to obtain them. The CMI-AU office has followed suit.
We think we have a duty-of-care to protect our families and also not to bring the ’flu back to the office to the rest of the staff, etc. Actually, even apart from the principle of care, it has a sound economic basis: just one or two employees off work for a week would cost the ministry (and thus its supporters) many times more than the cost of flu shots for all. Indeed, our speakers when on ministry are at greater risk than otherwise through shaking dozens of hands of well-wishers at ministry events.
Note that the influenza virus kills tens of thousands of people in the US alone every year, and statistics show that most of these victims are unvaccinated. It is not just a bad cold, even though sometimes a bad cold is misnamed ‘the flu’. As will be shown, the disease now called Covid-19 is about 30 times deadlier than the flu.
Theological and philosophical preamble
Because of Adam’s sin, God cursed the entire creation. This is why humans and animals are now afflicted with death and disease. This curse is still in effect, as shown by the obvious fact that Christians still die. While we also believe that God can heal the sick, this curse that has affected the whole of creation won’t be completely undone until the final resurrection bodies, as per the closing chapters of Revelation with their Edenic allusions.
It is also clear that God doesn’t always heal the sick supernaturally. Millions of devout people have died of infectious diseases throughout history. So, using modern medicine is no more a lack of faith than putting a seatbelt on you and your children, and hoping God will heal them after an accident. Indeed, the Bible also teaches, especially by the example of Christ, that ameliorating the effects of the Curse is a blessing—He healed many diseases and disabilities and we would endorse praying for healing at all times. Any medical advance, backed by rigorous scientific testing, that can prevent or cure infectious diseases though, is thus following the example of Christ.
As explained later, God’s sovereignty means that even natural (which God made anyway) or man-made medicines (within the boundaries of the Genesis 1:28 Dominion Mandate) are also His means of healing. As CMI has often explained, what we call ‘natural laws’ are really our descriptions of God’s normal, regular, repeatable way of upholding His creation; miracles are God’s extraordinary non-repeatable way of upholding His creation, or an addition to the ordinary ‘natural law’ way He normally acts.1
CMI is also not anti-establishment, anti-government or anti-majority for its own sake, but pro-Bible. We would oppose the establishment or the majority view of scientists only when it conflicts with the Bible (as we do with evolution theory), and reject conspiratorial theorizing.2 To do otherwise would, for one thing, involve needlessly trying to fight a battle on multiple fronts. Thus, for example, CMI does not oppose the majority view of physicists in favour of relativity and quantum mechanics, since neither of these views conflicts with Scripture. Most creationist physicists support these well-established theories, too.3 The same goes with vaccination, supported by the vast majority of medical doctors and scientists—including creationists in those fields.
Our God-given trainable immune system
God has given us an immune system. This would have had a pre-Fall role in differentiating self and non-self, but in this fallen world, it also fights against invading microbes. However, because we are fallen creatures, this system doesn’t work perfectly, as shown by the millions of deaths from infectious diseases throughout history (the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic is thought to have killed up to 100 million people or 3% of the world’s population at the time—including great numbers of Christians).
The immune system comprises two parts: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system (also called specific or acquired immune system). The innate immune system includes anatomical barriers, the inflammation reaction, and many of the white blood cells. The adaptive immune system responds to specific pathogens. (For much more information, see Your ingenious immune system: Cleverly configured to devour, deactivate, and destroy.
The adaptive immune system is demonstrably ‘trainable’ (a great example of intelligent design)—in many cases, survivors of a disease become immune to further attacks of this disease. This had been observed for centuries before the physiology and cell biology of the immune system were discovered. For example, although smallpox had a mortality rate of about a third, survivors never got it again. From this, many researched ways of acquiring this immunity without the dreadful ‘side-effect’ of the full-blown disease. First, this was via crude inoculations of powdered smallpox scabs, with much weakened but still live smallpox germs. This was called variolation, and had about 10% of the mortality rate than full-blown smallpox, but still the famous American theologian and preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), a strong advocate of variolation, died from it.
However, General George Washington ordered the whole continental Army to be variolated. At the time, smallpox was killing more of his army than the British troops were. So Washington thought that variolation was an acceptable relative risk (~10%). His actions probably won the War of Independence. Modern vacinations have a far lower relative risk, under 0.1%.
What is vaccination?
Smallpox prevention was much improved when doctors observed that maids who suffered from the mild disease cowpox were likewise immune to smallpox. So, Edward Jenner (1749–1823) in 1798 used material from cowpox blisters to inoculate patients successfully against smallpox.
With the development of the germ theory of disease, and the rejection of spontaneous generation, by creationist Louis Pasteur (1822–1895), the methods could be further improved by using dead microbes, which cause no disease at all. He demonstrated this by showing that rabies vaccine would prevent the development of this almost always fatal disease—he gave it to Joseph Meister, a 9-year-old boy bitten severely by a rabid dog (1876–1940). No amount of nutritional measures or hygiene had ever prevented the development of rabies in people who had been mauled by rabid dogs.
Thus, a vaccine can be defined as any biological entity that can train the adaptive immune system to give it ‘target practice’. As a result, if it encounters the live pathogen, it is ready for it. Because the germ has little chance to multiply to dangerous levels, a vaccinated person usually doesn’t develop an illness at all or gets it much less severely.
So, vaccination has saved millions of lives, and prevented severe injuries in millions more. One of our own senior staff was a practising medical doctor for many years and has seen firsthand the baneful effects and damage caused by people contracting such preventable diseases, including brain damage, in unvaccinated children.
A vaccine can take many forms. The original one was material from a cowpox sore. The most common vaccines use dead or highly weakened (attenuated) germs. Some use parts of germs, such as the aP in TDaP that stands for aceullar Pertussis. With some diseases, it’s not so much the germ that kills but an extremely potent toxin, lethal in smaller doses than needed to stimulate the immune system. So vaccines against these diseases are based toxoids, i.e. deactivated toxins. These include the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines, which train the immune system to attack the toxins quickly.
Scientists have developed other types of vaccines, as will be shown in the next subsection. Despite what some critics claim, they are vaccines according to the standard definition above.
Recombinant (subunit) vaccines
A newer type, recombinant vaccines, uses genetic engineering to make a protein subunit fromthe outside of the germ that the immune system targets. This combines the gene for this protein into another virus, lets that multiply, say in insect cells, then the protein is harvested, and used to make the vaccine that contains no virus genetic material, live or dead. One type of influenza vaccine is recombinant, and can be used for people allergic to eggs, and the Hepatitis B and HVP vaccines are also recombinant, as is the newer and much more effective shingles vaccine Shingrix.
The new and effective Ebola vaccine with the brand name Ervebo is a recombinant vaccine. Its technical name is Recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus–Zaire Ebola virus (rVSV-ZEBOV). It is 95–100% effective.
Conjugate vaccines are made in a similar way, but use recombinant technology to combine two or more pieces from the coat (carbohydrate pluys carrier protein) of a disease-causing bacterium, such as Pneumococcus, which train the immune system without needing whole bacterial cells.
Adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector vaccines
Adeno-associated viruses (AAV) infect some primates, but are not known to cause any disease. However, they can be used to insert genes and specific parts of specific chromosomes. They have already been used, and approved by the FDA, to cure hereditary types of blindness called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) and Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). The AAVs are used to replace the mutant LCA or RP gene with a healthy gene, so that the cell can detect light again. This is morally acceptable, in line with the biblical principle of alleviating the effects of the curse. This treatment restores the eye to its original created function from its fallen condition of blindness. There is no difference in principle between this and with replacing a defective heart valve with one from a pig.
The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine trials and Janssen Pharmaceuticals (owned by Johnson & Johnson) are using the same proven, approved, and safe technology to make a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In this case, instead of delivering a healthy copy of a human gene, it inserts the genetic instructions for ‘spike’ protein on the SARS-CoV-2 into special cells of the immune system called dendritic cells.. The spike protein is the part of the virus that enables it to infect the cell (and despite the name, it is rather flat-topped rather than pointy). Dendritic cells process anitgens and present them on the cell surface for the T-cells to process and train. Then the immune system will respond to that spike protein that comes without a dangerous virus. Note that the person’s genome and reproductive cells will not be modified. All that happens is that the immune system will be trained to recognize that spike as an enemy. So when the spike is attached to SARS-CoV-2, the immune system will be ready to destroy the invading virus. (See How COVID-19 Viral Vector Vaccines Work by Vaccine Makers Project.)
An especially good point about using the spike protein as an antigen is that the immune system will make mainly neutralizing antibodies. These are a type of antibody that neutralizes the pathogen, i.e. stops it from being infectious all by itself. By binding to the viral spike protein, the neutralizing antibody stops the virus from infecting the cells. Thus this type of immunity is called sterilizing immunity—the germ can’t infect, and it’s just a matter of time before the immune system destroys it. Non-neutralizing or binding antibodies are still useful, because they tag the pathogen for destruction by immune cells, but don’t by themselves stop the germ from being infectious. This is probably why the Chinese vaccines, made by the traditional method of using dead viruses, are less effective—CoronaVac was 51% and Sinopharm 79% effective at preventing symptomatic disease.
Johnson & Johnson announced on 29 Jan 2021 that its Ad26.COV2.S or JNJ-78436735 AAV vaccine was 66% effective in a one-dose regimen. But it’s even better than that number suggests. Around the world it had 85% efficacy in preventing hospitalization and death in the vaccinated trial group of the trial after 28 days, and after 49 days, there were no cases of hospitalization or death among the vaccinated. This has several advantages over the mRNA vaccines: it is more stable, and it needs only one dose. It also has fewer side-effects. The vaccinated group in the trial had fewer fevers than those in the placebo group.
One of the approved vaccines for Ebola is a two-dose regimen, comprising the AAV-developed vaccine Ad26.ZEBOV first, followed by Modified Vaccinia Virus Ankara – Bavarian Nordic (MVA-BN) Filo-vector. The vector viruses are modified so they are unable to cause diseases or even reproduce.
The newest type is probably RNA vaccines, also called mRNA vaccines because messenger RNA is used. In the USA, the most commonly administered vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, Moderna and Pfizer, are RNA vaccines.
The principle is that RNA is temporarily protected inside a fat globule, and taken up by dentritic cells. The RNA is then translated to make the spike protein on the cell surface which is identical to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The immune system then attacks the cells with the spike protein, and learns to recognize it. Just like other vaccines, the immune system is now trained to respond to the pathogen that has this antigen. In this way, the result is similar to the AAV vector vaccine (above). (See How COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines Work by Vaccine Makers Project.)
Specifically, the Moderna and Pfizer RNA vaccines, claimed to be >90% effective, are made by the following steps:
- They insert a DNA plasmid that codes for the viral spike protein into E. coli, then allow the bacteria to make many copies of it.
- This DNA is harvested and then transcribed into RNA in a test tube using bacterial enzymes.
- The RNA is then wrapped up in a lipid (fat) coating and stored at –80°C, with dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide). Such cryogenic storage is necessary because RNA is about 100 times less stable than DNA, and that’s saying something!
- When injected into muscle tissue, the cells ingest the tiny fat droplets, thus bringing in the RNA as well.
- If the cell detects foreign RNA, it commits suicide, signalling a T cell to come and kill it via apoptosis.
- If the RNA escapes cellular detection, it will be translated into the viral spike protein.
- Some of the protein should make its way to the outer cell membrane, where it will trigger an immune response, the production of antibodies, and the death of the cell via ingestion by a macrophage (white blood cell).
This process has many advantages—lower costs and delays that hold up many other new vaccines, and sometimes no need for long needles. Instead, a microneedle patch can be used in some cases. Also, an mRNA sequence can be quickly tweaked to adjust to a new viral variant, unlike the traditional vaccines where the new variant itself must be cultured. (Although in the case of the Covid-19 vaccines, this will probably not be necessary because the memory B-cells produce antibodies matched to the invading strain—see Does a requirement of booster shots mean the vaccine is ineffective? below).
The concerns about “genetically modified humans’ or “gene therapy’ are simply nonsense. The RNA doesn’t even get into the cell nucleus, because translation occurs outside it. So reject misinformed pronouncements like “this is not a vaccine but gene therapy,” because it doesn’t touch our genes! Also, the cell that has been injected is destroyed by the immune system. Finally, we are not Lamarckians: acquired characteristics are NOT passed on. The RNA vaccine is nowhere near the reproductive cells.
When it comes to AAV vector and RNA vaccines, a person has far more foreign human DNA and RNA in his system if he has received an organ transplant, or even a ‘probiotic’ live culture yogurt. Also, any pathogenic virus hijacks our cell machinery to produce more viruses with lots more foreign DNA or RNA! Every cell infected with the coronavirus will produce not just a spike protein, but around 10³ whole new virus particles (the viral burst size). So please reject conspiratorial nonsense about generating transhumans especially alarmist claims that they would no longer be Adam’s descendants (so presumably could not be saved by the Last Adam and Kinsman-Redeemer. Jesus Christ).
The same goes for outrageous claims that an mRNA vaccine could cause female infertility—if so, then we should have seen strong evidence for reduced fertility in women who have caught the disease, so where is this evidence? After all, if an RNA vaccine can impact fertility, then a fortiori, an RNA virus should impact it many times worse. But in reality, a study shows that the vaccine is safe and effective for pregnant women and their babies.4
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines generated robust humoral immunity in pregnant and lactating women, with immunogenicity and reactogenicity similar to that observed in non-pregnant women. Vaccine-induced immune responses were significantly greater than the response to natural infection. Immune transfer to neonates occurred via placenta and breastmilk.5
For much more information on this new type of vaccine, see RNA Vaccines: Harnessing God’s design to help prevent sickness, but will the new vaccine technology alter our DNA?
Note also, while spike proteins can be quite damaging by themselves, the ones induced by the vaccine stay attached to the cell thanks to the transmembrane anchor. They are not floating around in the bloodstream. Furthermore, the vaccine code for the spike has been mutated slightly so that it stays in its pre-infection state, i.e. it can’t change shape to bind with another cell’s ACE2 receptor. This should make it even less likely to cause damage (this applies to the Moderna, Pfizer RNA vaccines, as well as to the J&J and Novavax vaccines, but not to the AZ). Also, the cells concerned are mainly stuck in the thick deltoid muscle of the shoulder, away from the larger blood vessels. Some of the cells will reach the lymphatic system, but this is a good thing! This is a major part of developing an immune response. In reality, you should be far more concerned about spike proteins on the fast-multiplying viruses which usually infect the lungs first. From there, the spike proteins can damage lung tissue and blood vessels. The best way to stop this is to train the adaptive immune system to destroy anything bearing a spike protein—i.e. get one of the vaccines!
More Covid-19 vaccines
There are a number of new vaccines being developed which should be out soon, i.e. before the end of the year (thanks to Joel Tay for much of this information).
- Novavax’s vaccine involves inserting genes for the spike protein into a baculovirus, an insect virus. Then this virus is made to infect moth cells, which then make lots of spike proteins, which are then purified. It also uses a soapbark tree (Quillaja saponaria) bark extract as an adjuvant to increase immune response so less of the spike protein is needed.
- Medicago is currently working on a vaccine using tobacco plants to produce a modified viral-like protein.
- Sanofi is yet another one that may be out soon. Sanofi has two covid vaccines in development. The first is a partnership with GSK to produce a recombinant protein vaccine. This has been in phase 3 since May and should be out soon. They also have another mRNA vaccine in development (in partnership with Translate Bio) that is in phase 1/2 trials.
- Inovio is also developing a DNA plasmid-based vaccine using electroporation. They are working on a device that will deliver the treatment intramuscularly (phase 3) and are working on another device to deliver it intradermally. This is done using a handheld device. The device delivers an electrical pulse which allows the cells to ‘open up’ temporarily to take in the plasmids. Inf-4800 is the vaccine they are working on now for Covid.
- Arcturus is also working on another vaccine. This is the one that uses self-amplifying RNA (saRNA). In theory, this would allow for a single-shot vaccine that has a 40-fold smaller dose. (Vaccine name: ARCT-021)—no need for ultra-low temperature, lower cost, potentially fewer side effects, higher production of vaccines.
- Walter Reed Army Institute of Research announced a universal C19 vaccine that could handle all strains, including Delta and Omicron. The new technology is called Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle (SpFN) COVID-19 vaccine. Ferritin is a soccerball-shaped protein that stores and releases iron, and is found in all branches of living organisms. The protein has 24 faces, and scientists attached spikes from different strains on different faces, so the adaptive immune system could make antibodies and T-cells tuned to each one. So far, this vaccine has undergone only Phase 1 trials, not Phase 2 or 3. The delays are due to the rarity of people who have neither been exposed to C19 nor been vaccinated.
- Corbevax is a protein subunit vaccine, comprising the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the SARS‑CoV‑2 spike protein plus adjuvants. It was developed by a team from Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and Dynavax technologies based in Emeryville California, led by Dr Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi. Clinical trials in India with 3,000 volunteers showed that it was 90% effective against the original strain and 80%-efective against Delta. It is still being tested on Omicron. The developers intend for this vaccine to be non-profit, so it could be made cheaply and be readily available to poorer countries which still have a low vaccination rate. A disadvantage is that it can’t be tweaked as readilty as RNA vaccines can, but so far, no tweaked RNA vaccine is available yet either.
Vaccines are very effective
There is no doubt that we have far lower rates of many nasty diseases today. Smallpox has been completely eradicated, iron lung wards of hospitals that kept polio victims alive have largely disappeared, and rabies and tetanus are completely preventable. Also, debilitating diseases of childhood like measles, mumps, rubella, and whooping cough are no longer unpleasant rites of passage for most children. It’s notable that most anti-vaxers and even lots of doctors today are not old enough to remember when these diseases were widespread. Because they are not common, many often see no need to be vaccinated.
Basic concepts and terms
Bacteria (singular: bacterium)
Single-celled organisms that were created beneficial, but after the Fall, some became pathogenic, and even deadly. Yet even now, most bacteria are beneficial. We have about the same number of bacterial cells as human cells. E.g. a 70-kg man has about 3.8×10¹³ bacterial cells (called the microbiome, mainly in the large intestine), and 3.0×10¹³ human cells.a Bacterial cells are are about 0.2–10 microns in diameter, while animal cells are 10–100 microns.b Since volume and mass are proportional to the diameter cubed, the total mass of bacteria in a 70-kg man is only about 0.2 kg.a
Almost all viruses are far smaller than even a bacterium. Their typical size of 20 and 300 nm is below the wavelength of visible light, so they can’t be seen under a light microscope. An electron microscope is necessary to see them. The exception are giant viruses (aka giruses) of the phylum Nucleocytoviricota, about 500 nm in diameter. Viruses are not technically living creatures, because they can’t reproduce on their own. So while we often talk about live viruses, they are more precisely called active viruses. And although people frequently talk about ‘killing’ viruses, it would be more technically precise to use the terms deactivating or destroying them. The term virion means a complete, infectious form of a virus particle outside a cell, with nucleic acid enclosed by a protective protein shell called a capsid.
Viruses must hijack the reproductive machinery of a true living cell to reproduce. This machinery is forced to make many copies of that virus. Then a ‘burst’ of all those viruses is released from the infected cell, which is destroyed in the process. The number of virions released per infected cell is called the burst size, which varies with the type of virus and cell. For the SARS-COV-2 that causes COVID-19, the burst size is about 103.c At peak infection, a patient has 10⁹–10¹¹ coronavirions with a total mass of 1–100 μg.d Influenza viruses infecting human cells have an average burst size of 6,000.e Each of these new viruses is ready to infect another cell, and repeat the process.
God originally created viruses to be beneficial. One function is to regulate the microbiome. This means that there are probably about 10 times more viral cells than either human or bacterial cells in a healthy human body.f Viruses are the most numerous biological entity—about 10³¹, or 100 million times the number of stars in the observable universe.g The total mass of viruses on earth (after removing water) is 0.2 gigatons of carbon (Gt C), about three times the total human biomass of only 0.06 Gt C. (The total biomass on Earth is 550 Gt C. Plants comprise about 80% at 450 Gt C, and bacteria are a distant second at 15% or 70 Gt C).h
Some diseases are caused by an interplay between bacteria and viruses. E.g. the diphthereia and cholera bacteria produce their deadly disease-casuing toxins only when infected by certain bacteriophage viruses that carry the toxin genes and integrate it into the bacterial DNA. More commonly, a viral infection can weaken the body and make it more susceptible to a secondary bacterial infection.
SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19
SARS-CoV-2 stands for S evere A cute R espiratory S yndrome Co rona V irus 2, and is the official name of the coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China. The disease it can cause is officially called COVID-19, from CO rona VI rus D isease. Sometimes the virus or the disease is informally abbreviated to the Rona or C19.
Some standard definitions concerning infectious diseases
Endemic: a disease is always in the population at a steady percentage rate. This rate may not be desirable and we might seek to reduce it to zero. E.g. measles, mumps, and chickenpox were endemic before vaccines were available. Malaria is not endemic to the USA, even though there might be some cases in people who contracted it overseas.
Many infectious diseases experts argue that Covid-19 cannot be completely eradicated as smallpox has. Covid-19 has animal reservoirs, lacks distinctive symptoms, and is readily transmitted by asymptomatic or presymptomatic patients. So a realistic goal is for a low endemicity from widespread immunity, preferably from vaccination rather than from disease. And finally some drugs are proving to be quite effective cures, although still not nearly as good as prevention with vaccination. So even if the virus breaks out, its ability to cause serious illness is much weakened.
Epidemic: sudden large increase in a disease in an area. It is a large outbreak. In 2019, Samoa had an outbreak of measles which became an epidemic.
Pandemic: sudden large increase of a disease in lots of places around the world. Since C19 has infected many countries in different continents around the world, it is a pandemic. The ‘Spanish Flu’ strain of H1N1 was also a pandemic.
Syndemic: An epidemic or pandemic of more than one disease at the same time, or one after the other. E.g. if people don’t get their flu shots, we could have a syndemic of flu and C19. Sometimes the informal term “twindemic” is used.
Note than none of these terms is related to the severity of the disease. We should stick to the standard meanings of terms so we can communicate accurately.
The mortality rate can be calculated by dividing number of deaths by number of cases, strictly called the case fatality rate (CFR). (There is another measure called infection fatality rate (IFR), which includes asymptomatic infections. IFR requires testing antibodies to see if someone has been exposed even without showing symptoms.) If this is a percentage, then survivability rate = 100% – mortality rate.
For example, for influenza, in the 2019–20 (winter) season, there were probably around 38 million symptomatic cases, 18 million medical visits, 400,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths.i This means there is a hospitalization rate of ~1% and a death rate of 0.06%.
At time of the most recent updated of this article, the USA had 90,895,306 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,024,611 confirmed deathsj ). This means that it has a 1.127% death rate, or a 98.873% survivability rate (it was even worse in September 2020, around 3% case fatality rate, as documented by Dr Robert Carter in his video How COVID-19 Testing Works, at 15:44, 10 Sep 2020. For most of the time I have been tracking the mortality rate for this article, it was around 1.8%. We have learned much about how to treat this disease.). Furthermore, total deaths in America were hovering around 2.8 million people annually, but in 2020, there were about 3.36 million deaths, about 500,000 excess deaths, i.e. more than would be expected from previous years’ trend. And when the deaths are plotted monthly, the excess deaths track the number of C19 cases. Why would surges of excess deaths track surges of C19 cases unless there was a causal connection? Note also, there is no surge of deaths that matches any surge of vaccination! (See also Update: Covid-19 cases likely severely understated.)
Worldwide, it’s about the same (582,512,045 cases, 6,420,474 deaths, so 1.102% mortality). So, COVID-19 is not “no worse than influenza”, but about 20 times worse! (Even using estimated IFR, C19 is about 10× worse than flu.k ) Furthermore, C19 affects far more people than the flu, so even if the mortality rates were the same, C19 would still cause more absolute mortality.
COVID-19 is especially deadly for older people, but all age groups except maybe under-12 have a higher rate of both severe illness and death from COVID-19 than influenza. For those seriously ill enough to be hospitalized, a French study showed that more patients under 5 needed intensive care for C19 than flu. Furthermore, the mortality rate for adolescents aged 11–17 was 10 times higher.l
And a reminder that death is not the only problem, many more people have had disease seriously enough to need hospitalization. Even the supposedly mild Omicron strain has resulted in many US hospitals being overwhelmed. But not a single hospital has wards for vaccine side effects. In the USA, 4,592,164 people have been hospitalized with C19, over 10 times the typical annual numbers for flu. The hospitalization rate (number of people hospitalized/number of confirmed cases) is 5.747%.
(Note: some unreliable sources claim that there are many false positives for the C19 test, and the disease is not as dangerous as claimed. But they can’t have it both ways. If there are lots of false positives, then that would reduce the number of cases, which would increase the case fatality rate! Also, if there were even a tiny percentage of false positives, contact tracing would be impossible. However, this has been very effective at finding infectors, isolating them, and eradicating the virus from the general population, e.g. in Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.)
Some people who should know better have claimed that only 6% of these deaths were caused by the SARS-CoV-2 alone, while 94% had other causes. Two points:
The death certificate may well list other co-morbidities such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, or heart disease. There are over 70 co-factors listed as contributing causes. However, were it not for the virus, such patients would still be alive today. Most were managing those conditions and had a reasonably long life-expectancy. The coronavirus was the straw that broke the patient’s back. Many would have lived for decades.
There might be other conditions listed, such as secondary bacterial pneumonia, heart failure, lung failure, or a ‘cytokine storm’. However, these were conditions caused by the virus! If COVID-19 had not infected them, they would not have had these other conditions.
For comparison, one could equally claim that falling out of an airplane is not dangerous. Every death certificate lists as a co-morbidity a collision with the ground at enormous speeds. But we would agree that they wouldn’t have collided with the ground if they hadn’t fallen out. E.g. in the cases cited above, pneumonia, etc. did not really kill the person.
As a further reminder, death is not the only casualty of disease. It can cause long term damage too, often called called “long-haul”. About a third of survivors suffer from “long-COVID”, prolonged illness and weakness for months, e.g. fatigue, loss of smell or taste, lung damage (see image, above), and “brain fog”. Such people have a higher mortality rate than the general population. Studies in Americam and Australian show long-term heart damage in many Covid survivors. The Mayo Clinic points out:
COVID-19 symptoms can sometimes persist for months. The virus can damage the lungs, heart, and brain, which increases the risk of long-term health problems. … COVID-19 can also weaken blood vessels and cause them to leak, which contributes to potentially long-lasting problems with the liver and kidneys.o
Aside from the physical problems, a third of survivors were found to have mental problems as well:
One in three COVID-19 survivors in a study of more than 230,000 mostly American patients were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months, suggesting the pandemic could lead to a wave of mental and neurological problems, scientists said on Tuesday.Researchers who conducted the analysis said it was not clear how the virus was linked to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, but that these were the most common diagnoses among the 14 disorders they looked at.
Post-COVID cases of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer, the researchers said, but were still significant, especially in those who had severe COVID-19. …
The new findings, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, analysed health records of 236,379 COVID-19 patients, mostly from the United States, and found 34% had been diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric illnesses within six months.
The disorders were significantly more common in COVID-19 patients than in comparison groups of people who recovered from flu or other respiratory infections over the same time period, the scientists said, suggesting COVID-19 had a specific impact.p
The neurological symptoms were puzzling, until scientists showed that the coronavirus infects both the nerve cells themselves (neurons) and supporting cells (astrocytes). Ricardo Costa, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Shreveport, explained:
Our findings suggest that astrocytes are a pathway through which COVID-19 causes neurological damage. This could explain many of the neurologic symptoms we see in COVID-19 patients, which include loss of sense of smell and taste, disorientation, psychosis, and stroke.q
In general, if a person contracts Covid-19 badly enough to need hospitalization, even after recovery, there is a high chance of dying within a year.r So minimize the chance of needing hospitalization by getting vaccinated!
Still another complication of C19 is severe health risks for pregnant women. An Oxford University study of 2,100 pregnant women from 43 maternity hospitals in 18 low-, middle- and high-income countries worldwide showed that women:
who were infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy were at increased risk of premature birth, pre-eclampsia, infections, admission to intensive care and even death. While the number of maternal deaths remained low overall, the risk of dying during pregnancy and in the postnatal period was 22 times higher in people with COVID-19 than in non-infected pregnant [women].s
It stands to reason that any disease that causes lung problems can reduce blood oxygen levels. This can deprive the growing baby of oxygen as well. However, COVID-19 vaccination induces antibodies to fight the virus, which the mother can pass on to her baby via the umbilical cord then breast milk.t
There are some dishonest memes circulating on the lines of: “Why take a vaccine that’s 95% effective against a disease that 99.5% survive?” Two of the responses are above: about 98% survive, not 99.5%, about a third of those who survive have long term health problems, and there is a severe danger to pregnant women and their babies. (Note also, 0.5% mortality if all of the USA’s 330 million people get the disease means 1.65 million die. Not much consolation to them or their loved ones.)
Further, a “95%-effective” vaccine means reducing both the number of cases and number of deaths by a factor of 20 (5% = ⅟₂₀). For example (using round figures): suppose 1 million people would get C19 without a vaccination. About 2% would die, i.e. 20,000. A 95%-effective vaccine would reduce the number of cases to 5% of the original, i.e. 50,000. Of these, there would still be a 2% mortality rate, so 1,000 would die, i.e. ⅟₂₀ of the original death toll.
Update: Covid-19 cases likely severely understated. Writing on 13 Sep 2021, Dr Jennifer Beam Dowd, Associate Professor of Demography and Population Health at the University of Oxford, wrote:
While the official global death toll from Covid-19 is now 4.6 million, the actual toll is estimated to be close to 15.4 MILLION people.uIt turns out that the official death numbers hugely understated the death toll of C19 by a factor of about 3. Modelling excess death numbers in countries badly affected by the pandemic shows that the death doll is much worse. Dr Dowd provides the following:
➡️ In the US, current estimates are around 800,000-870,000 excess deaths—this is 30% HIGHER than the official COVID-19 death count, and 24% more deaths than would have been expected over this period of time.
➡️ In the UK, excess deaths are estimated at 120,000, almost 20% higher than the average deaths in previous years.
Other extremely hard-hit countries include:
➡️ Peru: 200K excess deaths; 159% higher than normal.
➡️ Mexico: 480K excess deaths; 63% higher than normal.
➡️ Brazil: 620K excess deaths; 45% higher than normal.
➡️ South Africa: 230K excess deaths; 45% higher than normal.
Then a paper in Lancet in March 2022 concluded that the worldwide death toll from Covid-19 was likely three times the offficial figures:
Although reported COVID-19 deaths between Jan 1, 2020, and Dec 31, 2021, totalled 5·94 million worldwide, we estimate that 18·2 million (95% uncertainty interval 17·1–19·6) people died worldwide because of the COVID-19 pandemic (as measured by excess mortality) over that period.v
Life expectancy drop from C19: America suffered the highest life expectancy drop since WW2 from Covid-19: 1.8 years, from 78.8 in 2019 down to 77.0 in 2020 before vaccines were readily available.w Furthermore, spikes in deaths correlate with surges of Covid-19, not with surges of vaccination.x Life expectancies have also dropped in the UK and many other countries. Note, Life expectancy in this context means “the average age a newborn would live to if current death rates continued for their whole life.”y
References and notes
- Sender, R. and 2 others, Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body, PLoS Biol. 14 (8):e1002533, 2016. Return to text.
- Blue, M.-L., Size comparisons of bacteria, amoeba, animal & plant Cells, Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body, education.seattlepi.com, accessed 21 Dec 2020. Return to text.
- Bar-On, Y.M. and 3 others, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) by the numbers, elife 9 :e57309, 2 Apr 2020. Return to text.
- Sender, R. and 6 others, The total number and mass of SARS-CoV-2 virions, medRxiv, 17 Nov 2020 | doi:10.1101/2020.11.16.20232009. They point out that this “curiously implies that all SARS-CoV-2 virions currently in the world have a mass of only 0.1–1 kg.” Return to text.
- Mahmoudabadi, G. and 2 others, Energetic cost of building a virus, PNAS 114 (22):E4324–E4333, 30 May 2017. Return to text.
- Francis, J.W., Ingle, M., and Wood, T.C., Bacteriophages as beneficial regulators of the mammalian Microbiome, Proc. Int. Conf. Creationism 8: 152–157, 2018; creationicc.org. Return to text.
- Yu, K.J., There are more viruses than stars in the universe. Why do only some infect us? More than a quadrillion quadrillion individual viruses exist on Earth, but most are not poised to hop into humans. Can we find the ones that are? nationalgeographic.com, 15 Apr 2020. Return to text.
- Bar-On, Y.M. and 2 others, The biomass distribution on Earth, PNAS 115 (25):6506–6511, 19 Jun 2018. Return to text.
- Disease burden of influenza, cdc.gov, accessed 30 Nov 2020. Return to text.
- CDC COVID Data Tracker, covid.cdc.gov, accessed 23 Dec 2020. Return to text.
- Ellis, R., COVID-19 Infection Fatality Ratio is About 1.15%, webmd.com, 30 Oct 2020. Return to text.
- Piroth, L. and 6 others, Comparison of the characteristics, morbidity, and mortality of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza: a nationwide, population-based retrospective cohort study, Lancet, 20 Dec 2020. Return to text.
- Xie, Y. and 3 others, Long-term cardiovascular outcomes of COVID-19, Nature Medicine, 27 Feb 2022. Return to text.
- Rowe, S.L. and 12 others, Complications following SARS-CoV-2 infection in Victoria, Australia: A record linkage study, Lancet, 3 Feb 2022. Return to text.
- COVID-19 (coronavirus): Long-term effects, mayoclinic.org, accessed 23 Dec 2020. A more recent study of 270,000 Americans who had recovered from C19 showed that 37% experienced at least one symptom 3–6 months after initial diagnosis, New research: More than third of COVID-19 patients become ’long haul’ cases, wbaltv.com, 29 Sep 2021; based on Taquet, M. and 5 others, Incidence, co-occurrence, and evolution of long-COVID features: A 6-month retrospective cohort study of 273,618 survivors of COVID-19, PLoS Medicine, 28 Sep 2021 | doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1003773. The total number of long-haul patients in the USA might be as high as 8 million people, affecting their ability to work, according to Sakay, Y.N., Returning to work: Millions in uncharted waters due to Long-Haul COVID-19, healthline.com, 30 sep 2021. Return to text.
- Kelland, K., A third of COVID survivors suffer neurological or mental disorders: study, reuters.com, 6 Apr 2021; citing Taquet, M. and 4 others, 6-month neurological and psychiatric outcomes in 236 379 survivors of COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records, Lancet Psychiatry, 6 Apr 2021. Return to text.
- Experimental Biology, How COVID-19 worms its way into the brain—Explaining baffling neurological symptoms, scitechdaily.com, 27 Apr 2021. Return to text.
- Mainous, A.G.III and 3 others, COVID-19 Post-acute sequelae among adults: 12 month mortality risk, Frontiers in Medicine, 1 Dec 2021. Return to text.
- Manke, K., COVID-19 infection raises risk of severe complications during pregnancy, news.berkeley.edu, 28 Apr 2021; Villar, J. and 49 others, Maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality among pregnant women with and without COVID-19 infection: The INTERCOVID Multinational Cohort Study, JAMA Pediatrics, 22 Apr 2021 | doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.1050. Return to text.
- Laird, P.B., The truth about COVID-19 vaccines and infertility, baptisthealth.net, 6 Aug 2021. See also the two-part series by family and obstetrics physician Dr Sana Zekri on youcanknowthings.com, COVID vaccines and fertility: vaccination before pregnancy, 10 Apr 2022; COVID vaccination during pregnancy, 27 May 2022. Return to text.
- Dowd, J.B., What is the real COVID-19 death toll? Are we over-counting deaths? dearpandemic.org/real-covid-19-death-toll, 13 Sep 2021. Return to text.
- COVID-19 Excess Mortality Collaborators, Estimating excess mortality due to the COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic analysis of COVID-19-related mortality, 2020–21, Lancet 399(10334):1513–1536, 16 Apr 2022 | doi:. Return to text.
- Santhanam, L., COVID helped cause the biggest drop in U.S. life expectancy since WWII, pbs.org, 22 Dec 2021. Return to text.
- Shenvi, N., A Minimal Case for COVID vaccination, shenviapologetics.com/, 22 Dec 2021. Return to text.
- Jeavans, C., Covid-19: Life expectancy is down but what does this mean?, bbc.com, 22 Sep 2021. Return to text.
Did nutrition and hygiene eliminate these diseases?
Many anti-vaxers claim that these diseases were eradicated not by vaccination but by improvements in hygiene and nutrition. No one doubts their important roles. But the argument fails to differentiate the two types of immune system. Nutrition and sanitation can help the innate immune system, but not the adaptive immune system. Furthermore, if they were the main causes of infectious disease reduction, then we would have seen these diseases disappear almost simultaneously. But the contrary is true: the diseases disappeared at different times, which correlated strongly with the introduction of specific vaccines for these diseases in both the USA6,7 and Australia.8—many in modern times where there was negligible further improvement in hygiene and nutrition.
Some anti-vax websites show graphs of deaths from the diseases, claiming to show that vaccines had no effect. I first note the inconsistency of some anti-vaxers claiming both that deaths from childhood diseases diminished and that the diseases are just harmless childhood illnesses. Also, the important measure is disease incidence, i.e. number of cases. Vaccines are not a cure for the disease, but a preventive against getting the disease in the first place.
This is further supported by modern outbreaks of infectious diseases in the western world which correlate with areas of widespread vaccination refusal. This has often been linked with wealthier communities where there would obviously be no drop in sanitation or nutrition, in the USA and Japan.9
Furthermore, the hygiene explanation fails particularly badly in the case of polio. There were still outbreaks in the hygienic 1950s, because sanitation actually made the disease more prevalent, because it reduced contact with the disease germ in the environment that sometimes conferred natural immunity—so the dirty environment was acting like a crude vaccine! So, polio mainly hit the prosperous and clean places.10
In general, the hygiene explanation doesn’t affect diseases spread through the air, such as measles, influenza, and COVID-19. Conversely, the diseases spread through bad hygiene, e.g. cholera, really have been eliminated in hygienic areas. So we no longer need vaccines for them. The exception is if we wish to travel to unsanitary areas. E.g., as a teenager, I received polio and cholera vaccines before travelling to Bangladesh for the Asian Junior Chess Championship.
Anti-vaxers might point out ‘correlation does not equal causation’ (although they don’t apply this to claims such “I got flu after the flu shot”, as below), but this correlation is combined with a known mechanism for vaccines to work, and controls of the other plausible variables.
Bottom line: if vaccination is not effective, then our immune system is not trainable!
Isn’t ‘natural immunity’ better?
Some argue that it’s better to catch the disease to get ‘natural immunity’. But surely the point of immunity is to avoid catching the disease! Catching a disease to avoid catching a disease is illogical. Also, vaccination and catching the disease produces the same immune response; the former avoids the side effects of the disease. In any case, in this fallen world, natural is not always good. Botulism is perfectly natural. The deadliest toxins are natural.
The term is misleading as well, because all immunity is natural. The right contrast is disease-induced natural immunity vs. vaccine-induced natural immunity. But henceforth, I will use the term ‘natural immunity’ as a shorthand for disease-induced natural immunity.
One type of natural immunity is fine. This is when a mother passes on antibodies against a disease on to her baby. But the antibodies, being foreign, are not going to last forever in the baby’s bloodstream. Eventually, the child needs vaccination to train his own immune system to produce its own antibodies.
Further, there are many diseases where vaccination produces much stronger immunity than the disease. A good example is tetanus. The often-deadly symptoms are not caused by the bacterium per se, but from the tetanospasmin neurotoxin that causes extreme muscle spasms. Tetanospasmin is the second most deadly known toxin (after botulinum toxin), with a mean lethal dose of 2.5–3 ng/kg. The problem is that even a near-fatal dose doesn’t have enough of the toxin to produce an adequate immune response. Other vaccines that produce a stronger immune response than the disease are The Hib vaccine (against Haemophilus influenzae type b bacterium) and HPV vaccine.
Still another disadvantage of natural immunity is that the pathogen may not be destroyed, but can remain dormant for many years. A good example is the varicella zoster virus (VZV) that causes chickenpox. After recovery, the VZV can still remain in nerve tissue. Most of the time, the immune system stops the virus getting out, but sometimes it fails, and the virus can activate in adulthood and cause the painful condition of shingles. A chickenpox vaccine prevents the virus from becoming established in the body, so it won’t cause shingles later. Other viruses that can remain in the body are HSV-2, which causes genital herpes, and HIV, which causes AIDS.
Should C19 survivors get vaccinated?
There have been claims based on one dubious study that so-called natural immunity for C19 is better, but this study relied on voluntary reporting. This means it had survivor bias: those killed or very sick from the infection didn’t report! Also, immunity from an infection is variable, both in strength and duration. It is possible, albeit uncommon, to catch C19 more than once.
However, it is also a mistake to deny natural immunity completely. Hybrid immunity can be very strong, whether from being vaccinated with different types of vaccine, or infection plus vaccine. A vaccine after infection will strengthen, not weaken, your immune system. Infectious diseases expert Dr Gandhi argues that those who have recovered from C19 should get one dose, and there is little benefit for them in getting a second dose.
The reverse is also true: infection after vaccination has also been shown to induce an enhanced immune response (and that’s after the vaccine protected against severe disease).
Vaccines are very safe
It is true that vaccination is not 100% safe, even with dead bacteria or inactivated viruses (viruses are not really living, so can’t be killed, just inactivated). But then, nothing is 100% safe! That includes activities we regularly choose to undertake, judging their benefits to be worth the risks, such as driving a car. In a fallen world, there are no perfect solutions, only trade-offs. So, it is folly to compare vaccination safety with a perfect standard that doesn’t exist; rather, it should be compared with the safety of non -vaccination (a.k.a. ‘relative risk assessment’). The latter (non-vaccination) is manifestly unsafe. Even on the face of it, the logic seems obvious:
If you think your child’s immune system is strong enough to fight off vaccine-preventable diseases, then it’s strong enough to fight off the tiny amounts of dead or weakened pathogens present in any of the vaccines.11
COVID-19 update: was the vaccine too rushed?
This current pandemic has understandably caused much concern about a C19 vaccine being offered without proper safety tests over many years. Will such a vaccine lack the proven safety record?
However, it’s important to note that the main purpose of trials is to determine the most effective dosage levels required to train the immune system effectively. But trials also track safety. Another point is that many of the proposed C19 vaccines won’t be totally new technology, but will be made by the extensively tested technology used to make other safe and effective vaccines. For instance, we already know the safe doses of the ingredients of other vaccines (see below, addressing the claim of poisons in vaccines). The exception would be the RNA vaccines, but these should be even safer than other types.
The C19 vaccine trials are an ethical form of the “double blind, placebo controlled” method, which is the most rigorous, also called double-blind randomized clinical trials (RCTs). Some people get the full vaccine. Some get the vaccine with the adjuvant (something that stimulates the immune system) but without the antigen (a protein that antibodies target). Some get the vaccine without either. This latter is not a ‘saline’ injection, but the idea is similar. Randomized, placebo-controlled experiments were also used with the recombinant vaccine, Shingrix, very effective at preventing shingles. Such trials are becoming standard in the industry.
Some vaccine skeptics are concerned that childhood vaccines haven’t undergone the same sorts of “double blind, placebo controlled” trials. But think of the immoral and cold ethics if a doctor had to say: “Sorry that your child died of measles / is paralyzed from polio. Fortunately this was no fault of the vaccine, because your child received one of the placebos.” Not only would RCTs necessarily leave some children vulnerable to infection, but they would also be skewed by anti-vaccination parents not wanting their children to be part of the random sample that was vaccinated, and by parents who refuse to see doctors at all. Anyway, the proof of overall great safety of vaccination is the millions of healthy children who have received all the vaccines in the schedule.
Also, the question presupposes that the norm should be many years. Much of that time is jumping through numerous expensive and time-consuming bureaucratic hoops. submitting and resubmitting funding requests, and recruiting volunteers. Now it typically costs about $1 billion and many years to bring each new drug to market. It is just as dangerous to hold up life-saving drugs for years as it is to allow a possibly dangerous drug to be approved too early. Without a vaccine, C19 would probably kill hundreds of thousands every year it is held up. Many are happy that much red tape was slashed so the C19 vaccines could be available much more quickly.12,13
Another cause of delays is simply finding enough volunteers, if the disease is relatively obscure. But the C19 pandemic is anything but obscure, and thousands of people volunteered for the trials. E.g. the Pfizer trials had 43,548 volunteers, while the Moderna trials had 30,420; half of each group were given the vaccine and half the placebo. It has now been about 18 months since the first doses.
Billions of doses administered safely
Now we have had the mass rollout of the vaccine itself to the public around the world. At time of writing, 12.35 billion doses have been administered around the world (7.09 million doses administered daily)—including many of the developers of the vaccine, who are thus ‘taking their own medicine’. Overall, 67.04% of the world’s population has received at least one dose (5.30B), and 61.58% is fully vaccinated (4.87B). So we have an enormous sample size.
The world figures include 603,693,871 doses administered in the USA, comprising 261,654,261 people who have received at least one dose of a C19 vaccine (78.8% of the population; 83.5% of the population ≥ 5 years old); 223,245,563 (67.2% of the population; 71.5% of the population ≥ 5) are considered fully vaccinated, i.e. two doses of the mRNA vaccine or one dose of J&J, (including my CMI-US colleagues), 107,924,198 (48.3% of fully vaccinated) have received at least one booster dose, and 19,935,913 have received a second booster dose (30.9% of those with a first booster—including me (J.S.)—3 Moderna plus 1 Pfizer mRNA vaccine shots).
Numbers of people vaccinated in other countries (and number of fully vaccinated people): 1.30B people vaccinated in China (1.26B fully vaccinated; 3,424B doses administered), 1.02B in India (932.78M), 82.25M in Russia (75.04M), 53.68M in UK (50.40M), 32.82M in Canada (31.50M), 22.40M in Australia (21.73M), 22.15M in South Africa (19.21M), 21.32M in Taiwan (19.92M), 15.77M in Ukraine (15.15M), 6.71M in Israel (6.15M), 5.02M in Singapore (5.00M), and 4.30M in New Zealand (4.13M).14
After both doses of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine, people are 94% less likely to have C19 symptoms and have a 92% reduction in severe C19 illness.15 In the USA, the numbers after widespread double-dose vaccines look far more promising still. Some have been concerned with a CDC report in mid-April 2021 that more than 5,800 out of 75M fully vaccinated people in the U.S. have caught C19 anyway. These are called “breakthrough cases”. Of these, 396 were hospitalized and 74 people died. But let’s work out the effectiveness. For a 95%-effective vaccine, we would expect 5% of the 75M to catch it, i.e. 3.75M. But only 5,800 caught it, i.e. only 0.0075%. And the death toll for fully vaccinated people is only one in a million, compared to ~20,000 deaths per million C19 cases. To put it another way, if you are one of the 0.0075% people unfortunate enough to catch C19 even after being fully vaccinated, your case fatality rate is almost halved to 1.28%. This suggests that the vaccine is extremely effective at preventing all forms of the disease, and lowering its severity to those few who still catch it.16 As of August 2021, 97% of new C19 hospital patients are unvaccinated, as are 99.5% of new C19 deaths.
Furthermore, in the USA a study showed that the vaccine sharply reduces transmission by asymptomatic (no symptoms) and pre-symptomatic (no symptoms yet) people.17 This should further accelerate the end of the pandemic, because people are most contagious “just before and for a few days after symptoms begin.”18
One study claimed that vaccinated people contain as many coronaviruses in their noses as unvaccinated people. However, the PCR test kit merely counted viral particles; Dr Gandhi points out: “A PCR just amplifies the sequence of virus but in no way tells if it’s alive or healthy and can go from one person to the next.” And as expected, the viruses in noses of vaccinated people are often been weakened by their vaccine-trained adaptive immune systems so are less infectious, as shown by a study in the Netherlands. Also, studies from Singapore and Harvard show that vaccinated people clear the viruses more quickly.
In any case, because those who don’t get the disease are less likely to spread it, vaccines also help to prevent other people from catching the disease. Even if the vaccine doesn’t totally prevent disease, and instead produces a milder form of the disease, reducing coughing, nose-running, and sneezing will lower the spread of aerosolized droplets or liquids that carry the germs.
There are some temporary side-effects lasting a day or so, which are the result of the immune system reacting strongly as intended. These include pain at the injection site, and chills and fever. (A fever is the immune system trying to kill a pathogen by raising the body temperature to more than it can tolerate. This means setting the body’s thermostat higher. When the thermostat is first raised, the body perceives that it’s colder than it should be, hence the initial ‘chills’.) But most report a quick and total recovery, as opposed to the long illness caused by the virus.
The serious side-effect of anaphylaxis has been reported in only a few out of a million doses.19 Anaphylaxis occurs very quickly if at all, which is why vaccine recipients are asked to stay for 15 minutes after the injection, so they can be helped by an epinephrine/adrenalin injection on the spot. The very rare and curable serious side-effects in a few cases out of millions is far better than the ~18,000 deaths (and ~300,000 long-haul cases) per million from C19 (see Mortality rate)! If the vaccine were even a thousandth as deadly as the virus, we should have been seeing thousands of people dying from it by now.
Some people are concerned about long-term side-effects of the vaccines. First, the known side-effects of the virus should be feared a thousand times more than unknown side-effects of the vaccine. Second, long-term effects of medication are an issue only for long-term usage of drugs taken daily. For example, the body can develop tolerance, become dependent, or the tiny side-effects can accumulate. But this is not the case for vaccines, which are a single or sometimes a double dose. After a month or two, there is nothing left of the vaccine in the body except antibodies and immune memory. Hence no vaccine is known with new side-effects that show up years after it was administered. Conversely, a virus can linger, e.g. chickenpox virus flaring up as shingles decades later. Other viruses known to have bad effects many years after the initial infection include: hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, HPV (e.g. cervical cancer), Epstein–Barr virus aka Human gammaherpesvirus 4 (Burkitt lymphoma, likely multiple sclerosis according to 2022 research), CMV, HHV8, and HTLV1.
I suspect that we haven’t seen the last of the C19 virus side effects. One unexpected long-term side-effect of Covid infection was reduced immune response to other strains:
Immune imprinting by infection with the earlier B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant resulted in less durable binding antibody against B.1.1.529 [Omicron]. Previously infection-naïve HCW who became infected during the B.1.1.529 wave showed enhanced immunity against earlier variants, but reduced nAb potency and T cell responses against B.1.1.529 itself.
That previous SARS-CoV-2 infection history can imprint such a profound, negative impact on subsequent protective immunity is an unexpected consequence of COVID-19. While the notion that, generally, hybrid priming by infection and vaccination enhances immunity is widely agreed ( 22 ), imprinted patterns such as the specific combination of vaccination with infection during the first ancestral Wuhan Hu-1 wave followed by the B.1.1.529 (Omicron) wave requires an additional term—“hybrid-immune-damping.” [Emphasis added.]
Burden of proof
It is up to vaccine-opponents to explain how a non-multiplying RNA vax in the shoulder, away from major blood vessels, can be more dangerous than a fast-multiplying RNA virus in the lungs, near heart and major blood vessels. Vaccine proponents don’t need to explain why the vax is safer, given the above. The onus is on the anti-vaxers.
Therefore, it should not be surprising that everything they complain that the vax can do, the virus can do both far more often and far more severely, whether blood clots, myocarditis, D-dimer elevation, spike protein toxicity, or whatever the latest claim is.
Fallacies of Geert Vanden Bossche
We wouldn’t normally comment on someone by name, because Dr v.d. Bossche is hardly the worst offender. But many people are touting his videos against the C19 vaccines. Geert Vanden Bossche is a Belgian veterinarian and virologist touted as a vaccine expert although he hasn’t published in that area. He makes outlandish claims that the Rona vax will allow dangerous mutants.
But CMI scientists know more about mutation and selection than he does—it goes with the territory. The best way to prevent mutations, i.e. copying errors, is to prevent reproduction in the first place. We do that best by getting vaccines into as many shoulders as possible, training the adaptive immune system to destroy the virus before it can reproduce or mutate! Dr v.d. Bossche would have us hold off a proven preventive measure and allow a disease to continue killing 2% of all cases and leaving 33% of survivors with “long haul” (see Mortality rate)—despite his claims that it’s a harmless virus.
Conversely, natural selection is often called survival of the fittest, but it doesn't explain arrival of the fittest. It is also really elimination of the unfit from being able to pass on their genes. Natural selection is a culling force, not a creative force. So strong selective pressure will not create variants. They must first arise, and can only do so when there is a chance for reproduction. Geert Vanden Bossche is basically reviving discredited Lamarckian evolution, or inheritance of acquired characteristics. (See also this off-site article Addressing Geert Vanden Bossche’s Claims, by Edward Nirenberg.)
Will the vaccine help produce variants?
The new Delta variant is being now blamed on the vaccines, using the same reasoning as Geert Vanden Bossche above. But once again, variants arise by mutations. (In fact, way back in 1943, this was proven (at least in bacteria) by the Luria–Delbrück experiment. This showed that mutations arose without selection pressure, rather than being caused by it. Salvador Luria and Max Delbrück shared the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine largely for this important demonstration.) Mutations by definition are copying errors. So the best way to stop mutations and variants is to prevent the virus from reproducing. The safest way by far is to vaccinate, to train the adaptive immune system to destroy the virus before it has a chance to reproduce much. Less reproduction means less chance for mutations, including those that produce variants. And indeed, the theory has matched what is found in practice: COVID-19 vaccines dampen genomic diversity of SARS-CoV-2: Unvaccinated patients exhibit more antigenic mutational variance and Full vaccination suppresses SARS-CoV-2 delta variant mutation frequency.
But if bacteria can evolve resistance to antibiotics, why can’t viruses evolve resistance to vaccines? First, as readers of this site should be aware, antibiotic resistance is not an example of goo-to-you evolution. Second, antibiotic resistance often arises when not enough of the antibiotic is used, e.g. when a patient doesn’t finish the prescribed course, and instead stops when the symptoms ease. The reason is that resistance is not usually absolute, but partial, and there can be a gradation in the population. So the antibiotic kills some bacteria, but not all. E.g. if say the toughest 10% of germs have 50% resistance, and the rest have none to speak of, then the antibiotic will reduce the numbers to 5%. Even at that level, they could multiply faster than the immune system can stop them. If the antibiotic is stopped too soon, then the population could become entirely 50% resistant germs. By then, a safe dose of the antibiotic may no longer be enough to kill enough of them. So it is very important to finish the antibiotic course so the anitbiotic can keep killing the germs while the population is low. Then the immune system can mop up the remnants.
But vaccines are very different from antibiotics. First, vaccines are prophylactic, while antibiotics are usually therapeutic. That is, the vaccines train the adaptive immune system to prevent the germs from reproducing in the first place. Antibiotics are mainly prescribed to treat an infection that has already arisen. Second, antibiotics normally have a single target, while vaccines induce antibodies and T-cells (a type of lymphocyte, in turn a type of white blood cell) against multiple targets of the pathogen. E.g. the beta-lactam antibiotics (e.g. penicillin) target cell walls, streptomycin binds the ribosome, oligomycin binds the part of the ATP synthase motor named Fₒ for oligomycin-binding fraction, fluoroquinolones target topoisomerase II enzymes, tetracyclines inhibit the binding of aminoacyl-tRNA to the mRNA-ribosome complex, and macrolides stop protein growing in the ribosome.
Conversely, pathogens have lots of potential targets for antibodies. For example, the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein comprises 1,273 amino acids, and vaccine-induced antibodies can target a lot of different short amino acid sequences. And the T-cells have about 100 targets on the spike protein; the Delta variant has about 13 differences, so that still leaves over 80 targets. So many mutations would be needed for the virus to become resistant to vaccines; and too many mutations on the spike protein would render it non-infective. This is why vaccine resistance has been a non-issue for most vaccines in history. A second dose of the RNA vaccine induces a high number of killer T-cells (aka cytotoxic or CD8⁺ T-cells), the heavy artillery of the immune system, which detects and destroys virus-infected cells. A double dose of the Pfizer RNA vaccine is 88.0% effective against Delta (and 93.7% effective against Alpha).
The Omicron strain, which originated in Africa in November 2021, has about 32 mutations. Yet the vaccines, all based on the original Wuhan strain, are about 70–75% effective against hospitalization by Omicron. So although the RNA vaccines could be much more quickly tweaked to the new strains, this may not be necessary. But a booster greatly increases the number of omicron-fighting antibodies—Pfizer about 25× and Moderna 37×—resulting in even stronger protection. So it increases protection against hospitalization by Omicron to 88%.
Also, the problem with the Delta variant is that it reproduces faster, not that is more resistant to vaccine-induced antibodies. Finally, the Delta variant first arose in India in October 2020, three months before vaccination began in India. This is just what we would expect: the variant arose in an unvaccinated person whose adaptive immune system was not trained to prevent the virus from multiplying. Omicron also arose in a low-vaccination area. It was thought to be milder, but more infectious. Even if true, it has still proved to be dangerous, because hospitalization and death rates are linearly proportional to virulence, but exponentially proportional to infectivity. Furthermore, later research shows that Omicron is just as deadly, when controlled for other factors such as previous infection, vaccination, and co-morbidities. I.e. unlike Delta, Omicron arose when a far higher number of people had previously received some immunity, so it’s not intrinsically milder.
(Indeed, because too many mutations would disable this virus, which is why it has a proofreading RNA-dependent RNA polymerase that reduces the mutation rate 20-fold. Conversely, many antiviral drugs work by increasing mutation rate so much that the virus is disabled, including the new Paxlovid to treat Covid-19.)
There is also a glaring inconsistency. If vaccine-induced immunity would select for vaccine-resistant variants (arguendo), then why wouldn’t so-called natural immunity (disease-induced immunity) do the same?
Does a requirement of booster shots mean the vaccine is ineffective?
It is normal for antibody count to wane after a while. We just could not keep antibodies for every antigen we have ever face circulating in our blood, or else it would be as thick as honey. But what is retained is the immune system memory. In particular, that of the B-cells that generate antibodies. In particular, Dr Monica Gandhi has documented that the B-cell retain their memory for decades, some including in many very old people 90 years after surviving the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Such B-cells were found to produce neutralizing antibodies against the same H1N1 viruses and protect mice from illness. When it comes to C19, the B-cells will even produce antibodies that better match whatever strain attacks the body. Also, Dr Gandhi points out that the T-cell response carpet bombs the spike protein in about 100 places, so even the variants can’t escape. At most, there are about 13 mutations in variant spike proteins, but that still leaves 87 spots for neutralization. Also, “T cells in one individual recognize different parts of the virus than do T cells in another individual”, so even if a virus escapes one person’s T-cell immunity, it won't excape another’s.
But antibody production is not instant, so a booster shot to induce antibody protection can be worthwhile, especially in the most vulnerable. Dr Gandhi argues that a higher priority than a third booster shot is to get first shots into as many people, both in the USA and the world, i.e. vaccinate the unvaccinated. Either way, better a booster shot to boost vaccine-immunity than a booster infection to boost so-called natural immunity.
Non-vaccination is very unsafe
The blatant un safety of non-vaccination should be obvious with well-known killers like smallpox and tetanus, but even ‘childhood illnesses’ are badly underestimated. For example:
Influenza. Too many people refer to a bad cold as ‘the flu’, but actual influenza is much worse. Thousands die in the USA every year from influenza complications:
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate an average of 23,607 deaths per year from 1976 to 2007.20
- The figures are more certain about the number of children who die from flu, because it has been a nationally notifiable condition since 2004: from the 2003–4 to the 2013–14 seasons, the average is about 113 pediatric flu deaths per season.21
- The CDC estimated that 90% of the children who died from influenza last season were not vaccinated. Further, about 40% of the deaths were in previously healthy children.
- Pregnant women who receive the influenza vaccination are much less likely to deliver premature, underweight.22 or stillbor.23 babies. This means that influenza is dangerous to unborn babies, so vaccination is a very pro-life policy.24
Chickenpox. At best, it’s still a nasty disease with itchy blisters that often leave scars, plus a high fever and headache, resulting in a week missed from school. Further:
- A person who has had chickenpox can get a painful and scarring rash called shingles years later, because the virus lies dormant in nerve cell bodies for years, but for some reason is re-activated and travels down the nerves to infect the skin near the nerve endings. In some people, it can lead to lifelong chronic pain.25 It’s even worse when it affects nerves of the ear or eye.
- Before the vaccine, about 11,000 people were hospitalized for chickenpox each year in the United States. A serious complication is hemorrhagic chickenpox.
- Before the vaccine, about 100 people died each year as a result of chickenpox in the United States.26 They were usually healthy before contracting the disease.27
Pox parties? Before the vaccine was developed, some people organized ‘pox’ parties when one child in a family or neighbourhood caught chickenpox. There are very big ethical question marks about deliberately giving a child an infectious disease. The idea was that it was better to get the disease as a child than as an adult. Indeed, adults can be affected very badly, so, the thinking went, better to get the disease as a child and become immune.
However, there are risks to children as well, as shown above. Another problem is the infectious dose of virus (inoculum). It was well known that the first child in a family to pick up chickenpox would often get a relatively mild case, while the siblings became much sicker. This is because the first child picked up a smaller dose by casual contact with an infected classmate. But once this first child gets sick, he passes on a much higher dose to his siblings because of the closer and repeated contacts. The first child’s immune system has a chance to train to battle the virus before it multiplies to very serious levels. But the sibling’s immune system must fight against a higher load, so the viruses have a chance for much more multiplication, therefore more severe illness, before the immune system can fight it off.
Vaccine expert Dr Paul Offit told the following tragic story:
In 2000, when we started our Vaccine Education Center, we made a video actually of sort of me talking to parents and just having them ask their questions about what they were worried about with regard vaccines. We hired a company in the city of Philadelphia named Shooters, which is kind of an odd name, but. So the cameraman who was shooting that, he told us a story about how his sister had taken her son to a chicken pox party. Because it’s true that if you get chickenpox as an adult, you’re about 10 times more likely to develop pneumonia, 10 times more likely to be hospitalized. So it’s actually better to get chickenpox as a child. And so the child went to a chicken pox party, got chicken pox, and died of hemorrhagic chickenpox. Now this was 2000. This was five years after the development of a chicken pox vaccine. The goal of the vaccine is to induce the immunity that you get from natural infection without paying the price of natural infection, and that’s what this child paid. And we actually asked this cameraman whether he would be willing to ask his sister whether she’d be willing to tell that story on camera, but not surprising, she wasn’t, and who could blame her? I mean, it’s just such a hard.
In general, there is no case to be made for any type of pox (or measles, or flu) party. Vaccines produce the same benefits without the nasty side effects of the diseases.
(This is also relevant to the debate over wearing masks to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19. Even if they are not 100% effective, they reduce the inoculum, and likely the seriousness of the disease. Indeed, the masks might function analogously to variolation, the pre-vaccination method of immunizing against the worst forms of smallpox. Variolation exposed the immune system to a lower dose of smallpox virus through the skin rather than the lungs. Just as variolation was replaced by the much safer vaccination, the new C19 vaccines have proven to be much safer than any sort of live virus. For more, see The science of masks.)
- Whooping cough or pertussis. This is not just a bad cough, but can have severe complications of pneumonia, brain damage, and the coughing fits are often so severe as to cause cracked ribs and turn children blue from oxygen deprivation. It was known as the 100-day cough. It used to kill 8,000 babies per year.
Measles. At best, it’s a nasty, itchy pox accompanied by high fever, cough, runny nose, and inflamed red eyes. Worse:
- Ear infections occur in about one out of every 10 children with measles and can result in permanent hearing loss.
- As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
- About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or mentally retarded. 1 in 10,000 children will get Subacute Sclerosing Pan-Encephalitis (SSPE), a progressive brain-eroding condition that inevitably leads to a slow, distressing death.
- For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it.28
- In Samoa, there was a measles outbreak last year. Lancet reported:
As of Jan 22, 2020, 5707 measles cases and 83 measles-related deaths (estimated attack rate of approximately 285 cases per 10 000 population) have been reported.2 87% of deaths have been reported as children younger than 5 years, a mortality rate of approximately 25 deaths per 10 000 people in this age group.29For comparison, NY, the state worst hit by far in the COVID-19 outbreak, has 196 cases per 10 000 pop, and 15.46 deaths per 10 000 pop (as at 3 Jun 2020). The eruption of measles has been attributed to low vaccination rate—it can’t be anything to do with nutrition or sanitation. And speaking of COVID-19, one paper suggests that the Rubella part of the MMR and MRCV vaccines may protect against the coronavirus, which could explain the much lower number of serious cases and deaths in people under 40.30 This is not the only case where a vaccine can improve responses to other diseases; the measles vaccine and the BCG vaccine against tuberculosis have protective effects beyond the specific diseases.31
- Measles causes long-term damage to the immune system in two ways.
But the MMR vaccine didn’t attack the immune system, so people get the benefits of protection against those diseases without the symptoms of the diseases, including immune suppression.32
- The immune system first circulates a wide diversity of ‘naïve cells’ that have many different receptors that can latch on to different pathogens. But measles sharply reduces this diversity of naïve immune cells, meaning the immune system is less able to deal with future infectious diseases.
- Then after responding to diseases or vaccination, the immune system is ‘trained’ by producing long-lived ‘memory cells’. These circulate in the blood and are ready to quickly combat the disease organisms concerned before they can multiply much. But measles attacks these memory cells, so the patient is no longer immune to those diseases. They may even need to be re-vaccinated.
Overall, if vaccination were so unsafe, then it’s hard to explain why sharp increases in vaccination correlate so strongly with increases in general health as well as sharp drops in child mortality.33
For another example of such trade-offs, 350 people die annually in the USA taking baths,34 but this would not justify refusing to wash, because that would increase the risk of acquiring diseases. Similarly, most wouldn’t refuse to wear seatbelts just because in rare freak situations, being thrown out of a vehicle could enhance the chance of survival.35 This is because they realize that overall, the chances of being killed or injured by not being restrained are far greater.
The impossible demand for 100% safety is similar to the claim that vaccination violates the faux-Hippocratic maxim Primum non nocere (“First do no harm”).36 But it should be clear that withholding such a life-saving measure is inflicting considerable harm by omission .
Bottom line: anti-vaxers often make the two contradictory claims about our immune system: apparently our immune system is so strong that it can fight off legions of rapidly multiplying live germs, but it is simultaneously so fragile that a few fragments of dead germs will overwhelm it.37
Of course, if someone has been harmed by vaccination, however rare (see Vaccine Injuries, below), great compassion is in order; one can scarcely expect a parent to be consoled by the statistical fact that the child’s chance of being harmed by the disease was far greater. (From the parent’s perspective, the child, if unvaccinated, may have survived the illness with no lasting harm.) This is part of what makes it such an emotive issue.
For example, say that a parent chose to vaccinate for a particular illness where the chance of serious complications from the vaccine was 1 in 1,000,000, and the chance of serious complications from being unvaccinated and getting the disease was 1 in 1,000. And the child suffered complications from the vaccine. Without the benefit of foresight, as only God has, one can still say that at the time the decision was made, the parent’s decision to vaccinate was the wisest and most responsible one in discharging their duties as a parent—even though in hindsight the picture looks different.
Vaccines contain deadly poisons
This is a meaningless claim, because the first rule of toxicology is: ‘the dose makes the toxin’. For example, there are chemicals in perfectly safe food and even in our bodies, as well as vaccines, that would be toxic in a thousand times the amounts. Conversely, even ‘good’ things like oxygen and water can act as poisons in large amounts.38
Many poisons have benefits in small amounts; e.g. the potent digitalis toxin in foxglove plants in tiny amounts can benefit heart arrhythmias and congestive cardiac failure. The ‘deadliest poison’ known, botulinum toxin, have an LD₅₀ (median lethal dose),39 of around a nanogram per kilogram (ng/kg) of body weight.40 Yet it is used to control squinting and wrinkles in minuscule doses (commonly given as ‘botox’ injections). The class of anti-hypertension medicines called ACE inhibitors were developed after analysing a component of a pit viper venom.
Another important issue is that poison molecules cannot reproduce; disease germs are so dangerous precisely because they can make many more of themselves. And these germs usually produce far more toxins than vaccines contain.
For many decades, many vaccines have included a strong preservative, a compound of mercury with an ethyl and thiosalicylate41 group called thiomersal (from ethyl mer cury thiosal icylate) or merthiolate or thimerosal.42
Back in 1931, it was shown that thiomersal is 40–50 times more effective against Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph) than phenol (carbolic acid), the classic antiseptic used by the pioneer Joseph Lister (1827–1912). Indeed, a concentration of only 1 part in 10,000 (0.01%) would stop bacterial growth in vaccines.43 but not destroy the vaccine itself as phenol does.44 Since this concentration was used as a vaccine preservative, this amounts to 50 µg (µg = microgram = one millionth of a gram) of thiomersal in a 0.5 mL dose, or 25 µg of mercury.45 To put this into perspective, a typical serving of tuna would have an average of 30 µg of mercury.46 Vaccinations are a single dose—people frequently eat tuna.
However, quite large amounts didn’t harm test animals: “up to 20 mg per kg body weight in rabbits and still higher in rats—without apparent injury.”47,48 For humans, it seems to require 3 to a few hundred mg/kg of thiomersal to produce acute mercury toxicity. So if we take the most cautious figure of 3 mg/kg, a 50-kg person would need to receive over a thousand thiomersal-containing vaccinations to receive a toxic dose. So not surprisingly, one review revealed no evidence of harm caused by doses of thimerosal in vaccines, except for local hypersensitivity reactions,49 although it was used for many decades.
However, from the 1960s to the 1990s, mercury-containing effluent poured into the sea was shown to have highly toxic effects. And it accumulated in the food chain, so it became concentrated in fish. Several thousand people in the fishing community of Minamata Bay, Japan, had serious mercury poisoning with often fatal results. In particular, bacteria converted the inorganic mercury into methylmercury CH₃Hg⁺.
However, there is an important difference between this and thiomersal—the latter is metabolized into ethylmercury CH₃CH₂Hg⁺. Even though there is only a CH₂ group difference, this makes all the difference—compare ethanol or ethyl alcohol (CH₃CH₂OH) that makes you “merry” (Ecclesiastes 10:19) with methanol/methyl alcohol (CH₃OH) that makes you blind or dead. Ethyl mercury does not accumulate. Rather, it is removed quite quickly from the blood and excreted via feces. Indeed, even giving thiomersal-containing vaccines to infants did not raise their blood mercury level above safe levels, and the half-life of mercury in the blood was about a week.50
Unfortunately, in a typical panic-reaction by bureaucracies, on 9 July 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asked the vaccine makers to remove thiomersal from their vaccines. The absurd double-speak of the AAP press release just confused matters:
Parents should not worry about the safety of vaccines. The current levels of thimerosal will not hurt children, but reducing those levels will make safe vaccines even safer. While our current immunization strategies are safe, we have an opportunity to increase the margin of safety.
Of course, if the amounts are safe already, then how could the safety be improved by removing it? And it sent the mixed message to parents: “if they are removing thiomersal, it must really have been harmful after all—and they must have been hiding this in the past.”
This caused immediate harm: after about 10% of hospitals suspended their hepatitis B vaccines that contained thiomersal, a 3-month–old baby born to a mother infected with the disease died of this. And the ban enabled concerned parents and associated ambulance-chasers to blame thiomersal for their children’s autism (see below).51 It has also increased the costs of vaccination, because they must be in single-dose vials without a preservative.
However, now, this issue is a red herring, because so few vaccines still contain thiomersal. In the USA, only some influenza, tetanus, and meningococcal vaccines have as much as 25 µg of mercury; the vast majority have none.52
Formaldehyde or methanal (HCHO) is the simplest aldehyde (RCHO), and has the ability to cross-link proteins. This makes it toxic to microbes, so it is used as a preservative. For vaccines, it is important to have dead microbes, so formaldehyde is used to inactivate viruses. It also denatures the deadly toxin proteins of the tetanus and diphtheria bacteria, so they can no longer do their damage (so are now toxoids), but can still provoke the desired immune response.53
So how much formaldehyde is in vaccines? Some vaccines have about 100 µg per dose, as per this table.54 Note that the table lists different versions of the same vaccine, whereas a patient would receive only one of these. This means that the typical vaccination schedule for infants would result in about 120 µg.55 So let’s put that into proper perspective.
Actually, our bodies produce formaldehyde in small amounts. Metabolism of some amino acids produces formaldehyde as a by-product. And it is even essential as a metabolic intermediate in manufacturing purines (essential components of DNA and RNA) and some amino acids. So the naturally occurring concentration of formaldehyde in our blood is 2–3 µg/.56 or about 2–3 mg/L. So even a 2-month–old infant with half a litre of blood would have 1–1.5 mg in the whole bloodstream. It means that the total recommended vaccination schedule would add about a tenth to the infant’s natural level, which is below the natural variability.
We can’t escape formaldehyde from outside, because it is contained in many foods, especially pears, which have about 60 µg/g (mg/kg), and cod, apples, and pork have about 20 µg/g.57 Thus a 200-g pear would have 12,000 µg, 100 times as much as the total infant vaccination schedule.
Aluminium is an adjuvant, that is, it enhances the immune response, so that less of the deactivated infectious agent is needed. Aluminium is in any case abundant in nature, e.g. clay minerals are aluminosilicate sheets (called phyllosilicates). Once again, the amount in vaccines is incredibly tiny by comparison.
To be specific, vaccines have no more than 0.85 mg/dose of aluminium. We eat about 10 times that amount every day in our food. Any aluminium that reaches the blood stream is excreted quickly, with a half life of about a day.
Albumin, the protein from eggs, is used as a vaccine stabilizer. This is what’s responsible for many of the reported allergic reactions to vaccines. This is a non-issue for those who can eat eggs or egg products.
The adjuvant MF59 is an emulsion of squalene oil in water. It has safely been used in influenza vaccines for over 20 years. Squalene is a triterpene found in all plants and animals, including humans. Our bodies use this as an biochemical intermediate to produce cholesterol and steroid hormones. It is also a product of our sebaceous glands, helping to lubricate and protect our skin. Squalene was historically extracted from shark liver oil, hence the name, derived from Squalus, the spurdog genus of dogfish sharks.
Polyethylene glycol (PEG)
PEG is one of the lipid components in the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. It is also the active ingredient in my over-the-counter eye drops that use several times daily for dry eyes.
Bloodstream vs. ingestion?
Some antivaxers try to get around the information above by claiming that there is a difference between ingesting as food or drink and injecting into the bloodstream. A few problems with that:
- Vaccines are not injected into the bloodstream! Rather, most are intramuscular. This is necessary to bypass the anatomical barriers of the innate immune system so that the adaptive immune system can be trained by the vaccine.
- Formaldehyde is already circulating in the bloodstream in much higher amounts than in vaccines.
- These so-called poisons are readily absorbed by ingestion. How do they think fish high up on the food chain accumulate mercury?
- Some have argued that the synergistic effects of the ‘toxins’ in vaccine are far worse than the effect of each on its own. But then, the same argument would apply to our diets. We would hardly be able to eat anything, because perfectly safe food has some of the so-called toxins that worry vaccine opponents, and they would likewise have a synergistic effect. E.g. eat a serving of tuna and you have as much mercury as in a flu shot, then drink tomato juice with methanol which is oxidized to formaldehyde, eat a pear with far more formaldehyde than any vaccine, and cook something in an aluminium saucepan, and you have some of the chemicals that concern vaccine-opponents, with synergistic effects. The solution is to realize that the amounts in vaccines (and foods) are way too small, as shown above.
Toxins in perspective
As with everything else, people have far more to fear from the diseases than vaccines. The second and fourth most deadly known toxins are those from the tetanus- and diphtheria-causing bacteria! (the first and third most deadly are the botulinum toxin and shiga toxin (from Shigella dysenteriae)). Getting vaccinated against these diseases prevents these extremely dangerous toxins from reaching the bloodstream.
“I got influenza from the flu shot”
No, you didn’t. Dead viruses simply can’t cause infection. The impression is a good example of the fallacy, unfortunately widely used by anti-vaxers, of post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this therefore because of this”). That is, some people became ill after a flu shot, so think that the flu shot caused the disease. In reality, it takes about two weeks for the body’s immune system to respond fully, and these unfortunates caught the live flu virus (if in fact the illness was influenza) before the immune system was fully protective. Also, again, too many people call a bad cold ‘the flu’, and an influenza shot won’t protect against non-influenza illnesses.58
Also, no system is totally effective, and sometimes the vaccine doesn’t contain the right match for the live virus in the current ‘flu season’. The lower effectiveness of the flu shot is due to the same reason that you can catch the flu and get it again: the virus mutates quickly. So the manufacturers of the flu vaccine make the best guess on the currently circulating strain.
However, there is good news here. Even if they don’t guess quite right, they guess near enough in most cases that even if a person catches influenza, it is not usually severe enough to need hospitalization.59 And even if it is, the death rate is sharply reduced in vaccinated patients—a CDC study showed, “an unvaccinated hospitalized flu patient was 2 to 5 times more likely to die than someone who had been vaccinated.”60 That is, even in the worst case, the flu shot is good at preventing an influenza attack, very good at preventing one severe enough to need hospitalization, and excellent at preventing a fatal attack.
Another reason the flu shot is less effective than most other vaccines is that the virus mutates in the chicken egg cells (“egg-adapted changes”). This means that the virus to which our immune system is exposed is not quite the same as the virus naturally circulating, so the immune response is not always totally effective. But this problem is likely solved in the new “cell-derived” quadrivalent flu vaccines for the 2020/21 USA flu season. These are cultured on Madin–Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) cells, a cell line descended from epithelial cells from kidney tubule of a female adult Cocker Spaniel. The original cells were extracted by the eponymous S.H. Madin and N.B. Darby in 1958. The cell-derived vaccines have another advantage: there is no egg component that occasionally produces and allergic reaction.
Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS)
GBS is a rare disease with muscle weakness, tingling, numbness and sometimes pain. It is an auto-immune condition: the immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system. Medical science doesn’t really understand the cause. Some have been concerned that GBS could be triggered by the flu shot. In reality, some diseases can also cause GBS, including influenza. In fact, the influenza virus is about 17 times more likely than the influenza vaccine to cause GBS. So a good way to reduce your chance of being afflicted with GBS is to get the flu shot!
“Vaccines cause autism”
This is a very common claim, infamously promulgated by former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy, who claimed that her son became autistic after being vaccinated. It also gained some credibility with a study published in Lancet by British doctor Andrew Wakefield. Later, he was “held guilty of ethical violations (they had conducted invasive investigations on the children without obtaining the necessary ethical clearances) and scientific misrepresentation (they reported that their sampling was consecutive when, in fact, it was selective).”61 Lancet retracted the study in February 2010.
In contrast to Wakefield, study after study has shown no link between vaccination and autism. The U.S. National Academy of Science’s (NAS) Institute of Medicine published a study in 2004 which summarized:
Thus, based on this body of evidence, the committee concludes that the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism.62
And in 2014, a huge meta-study was published, involving over a million children, concluding:
Five cohort studies involving 1,256,407 children, and five case-control studies involving 9,920 children were included in this analysis. The cohort data revealed no relationship between vaccination and autism …, nor was there a relationship between autism and MMR …, or thimerosal …, … Findings of this meta-analysis suggest that vaccinations are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, the components of the vaccines (thimerosal or mercury) or multiple vaccines (MMR) are not associated with the development of autism or autism spectrum disorder.63
Even autism advocacy organizations reject a link between vaccination and autism:
Are Vaccines to Blame?
Over the last two decades, extensive research has asked whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: Vaccines do not cause autism. We urge that all children be fully vaccinated.64
But like the whack-a-mole game, this charge keeps raising its head after being refuted repeatedly. In particular, the originator of the claim, Andrew Wakefield, has been thoroughly discredited for fraudulent research65 and was stripped of his medical licence in 2010 for showing “callous disregard” for children’s welfare. A 2019 review documented many studies showing no link between MMR vaccine and autism, and explained more how Wakefield’s shifting hypotheses are without foundation. The abstract explains how the “vaccination causes autism” claim is both wrong and dangerous:
Autism is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges. A report published in 1998, but subsequently retracted by the journal, suggested that measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism. However, autism is a neurodevelopmental condition that has a strong genetic component with genesis before one year of age, when MMR vaccine is typically administered. Several epidemiologic studies have not found an association between MMR vaccination and autism, including a study that found that MMR vaccine was not associated with an increased risk of autism even among high-risk children whose older siblings had autism. Despite strong evidence of its safety, some parents are still hesitant to accept MMR vaccination of their children. Decreasing acceptance of MMR vaccination has led to outbreaks or resurgence of measles. Health-care providers have a vital role in maintaining confidence in vaccination and preventing suffering, disability, and death from measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.66
Also, and very importantly, if the autism really were due to thiomersal in vaccines, then removal of that from most vaccines should have caused reduction in autism rates. But they are rising instead.
The science of masks
Normally this topic would be peripheral to the topic of vaccines. But during the 2020 C19 epidemic, many who oppose vaccination have also come out opposing masks. The reasoning in both cases relies on a lot of misunderstanding.
People’s distrust of masks was hardly assuaged when the USA Surgeon General and the WHO first scoffed at masks. At that time, the rejection of masks made no sense to me. After all, staff in operating theatres have worn masks for decades. On a more mundane level, we cover our mouths when we cough or sneeze (at least, we should). It is common sense that we should put some sort of barrier between our mouths and others. However, masks are still attacked with a number of false claims.
- “Viruses are smaller than the holes in the mask, so masks can’t work.” However, viruses are carried in water droplets, carried on air currents. Many droplets are larger than mask holes, so they really are stopped by the mask. The fact that the mask gets moist is evidence that they are working as designed! Masks also reduce the forward air flow, so any droplets that get through are not carried as far.
- “There is no evidence that masks work.” As above, we have long known that it makes sense to put a barrier against airborne viruses. But we can also observe how masks hinder airflow. Slower air → lower distance that droplets can travel. This is good operational science! i
- “Masks deprive wearers of oxygen.” There is no evidence for this. I own a pulse oximeter, so tested myself with and without a mask. The mask had no effect on my blood oxygen saturation (O₂ sat) levels. A sample of one, I realize, but does anyone have evidence to the contrary? Also, mask critics can’t have it both ways: they can’t sensibly claim that masks can’t stop viruses because they are much smaller than mask holes, but these same holes hinder O₂ molecules, which are much, much smaller than viruses!
- “Masks are not 100% effective at stopping viruses.” The fallacy here is making the perfect the enemy of the good. There are very few other areas of life where we decide that if we can’t have everything, we should have nothing. For example, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing doesn’t stop all pathogens. Does this mean that we shouldn’t cover our mouths and stop most or even some of the germs? But infectious diseases specialist Dr Monica Gandhi found that ordinary masks stop about 80% of the droplets. The specialist N95 masks can stop 95%.ii Furthermore, there are at least two likely benefits from masks reducing virus transmission, even if they don’t quite eliminate it:
- Even if masks are not 100% effective, reducing the infectious dose (inoculum) of viruses would lower the severity of disease. With a lower load to start with, by the time the immune system learns to attack the viruses, the number hasn’t got too large. With a larger starting load, the virus can become more numerous before immune system can defeat it. In the bad old days before chickenpox vaccines, it was well known that the first child who brings the pox home could have a mild illness, while the siblings could become much sicker. The reason is that the first child picked up a relatively low inoculum from brief contact with an infected classmates, but the siblings picked up a much higher dose from close and repeated contact with the first child.iii
- A reduced load could also stimulate the immune system without causing such a severe disease. This has been compared to variolation, the pre-vaccination way of immunization against full-blown smallpox.iv Variolation used a hopefully weakened form of the smallpox infectious agent to cause a milder skin infection. Variolation had about 10% of the mortality rate of full-blown smallpox, but was made obsolete by the far safer process of vaccination, which eventually wiped out smallpox.v
- There is further prima facie evidence that masks really do hinder transmission of airborne viruses (which are really borne on water droplets) such as SARS-CoV-2. We have a sort of control, in another seasonal airborne virus, the one that causes influenza. In the Southern Hemisphere winter season of 2020, there were hardly any flu cases.vi/a> It stands to reason that methods to control one specific airborne virus will have unintended benefits in controlling others. This is not just masks, but also social distancing and more frequent handwashing.
In general, CMI is pro-Bible, not anti-establishment for its own sake. Our differences are not with operational science claims about the present, but mainly with their false histories about the past, and to a lesser extent, dubious modelling about the future, such as global warming alarmism. Indeed, the fact that we are young-earth creationists and alarmism-skeptics shows that we dont blindly trust claims. For example, as above, I was skeptical of the original scoffing at masks.
None of the above means that we necessarily agree with all decisions made by politicians and bureaucrats. Many of them have only themselves to blame for the distrust many people have. E.g. the original scoffing at masks has made many skeptical, despite all their rationalizations for their original stand. People also wonder why large crowds at church services are super-spreader events, but large crowds at protests, casinos, marijuana and alcohol stores are safe. Similarly, apparently ‘elective’ surgeries or heart ablations must be delayed, while abortion is an ‘essential’ medical procedure—yet we were always told that it was ‘choice‘ which by definition is elective. The Christian satire site The Babylon Bee even published articles satirizing the hypocrisy, e.g. “WHO scientists confirm coronavirus only spreads at conservative protests” and “In show of solidarity, COVID-19 vows not to infect anyone protesting inequality”.
But the bottom line is that the real operational science about masks is independent of what bad-faith politicians and bureaucrats claim.
References and notes
- “It’s Okay To Be Smart”, How well do masks work? (Schlieren imaging in slow motion!), youtube, 4 Jul 2020. Return to text.
- Mojica, A., Professor of Medicine finds evidence masks protect you from COVID-19, not just others, fox17.com, 16 Jul 2020. Return to text.
- Lally, M., How catching chickenpox from a sibling makes it worse: Rosie got it from her big sister and ended up on a drip in hospital, dailymail.co.uk, 21 Jul 2015. Return to text.
- Gandhi, M. and Rutherford, G.W., Facial masking for Covid-19 — Potential for “variolation” as we await a vaccine, New England J. Medicine 383 :e101, 29 Oct 2020. Return to text.
- Cosner, L., Smallpox: Medical victory over a devastating plague, Creation 42 (4):48–50, 2020. Return to text.
- Peek, K., Flu season never came to the Southern Hemisphere: Mask wearing and social distancing for COVID-19 may have cut influenza cases south of the equator, scientificamerican.com, 30 Sep 2020. Return to text.
The real reason for the perceived increase in autism
When it comes to some diseases, the increase in numbers can actually be attributed to the increase in average lifespan. That is, people now live longer, so have more chance to contract these diseases, instead of dying young of the infectious diseases now limited by vaccination. For example, since the average lifespan used to be in the 40s, there were fewer cases of cancer than an increased population who now have the average lifespan in the later 70s. We are living longer, but are also having more time to develop those diseases.
Therefore, in one sense there is a correlation between increase in vaccination and increase in some diseases: but not in the way anti-vaxers claim—rather, it’s because vaccines are allowing us to live long and healthy enough, so we don’t die before catching them!
In the case of autism in particular, the reason for the perceived increase is much more straightforward. There was a medical reclassification of many diseases under the ‘umbrella’ diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. This means there is now one diagnosis, with degrees, instead of many different diagnoses. For example, my youngest brother, for example, is no longer diagnosed ‘Aspergers’, but instead ‘highly functioning ASD’. He is still the same person, but reclassified, as many others have been, making the number with ‘Autism’ look much larger without actually adding new people. To clarify, if there were 10 cases of A, 5 cases of B, and 15 cases of C, reorganizing them into 30 cases of ABC, one label, does not mean there was any increase in actual number.
Additionally, medicine is getting better at diagnosis, so people who used to be dismissed as ‘off’, ‘eccentric’, or sometimes even ‘insane’, are receiving proper diagnosis in recent times, increasing the numbers statistically, but not for any increase in affected people. For example, ‘weird Uncle Harry’ might not be seen as ‘weird’ if diagnosed in recent times, but instead properly diagnosed as ASD.
One can’t help but comment on the gross inconsistency in common anti-vax claims. On the one hand, they reject the strong, repeated correlation between introduction of a vaccine for a disease and decrease in incidence of that disease (and between rise of anti-vax practices and rise of those diseases). But on the other, they accept a correlation between vaccines and autism that’s so weak as to be non-existent.
“More vaccinated kids become sick than unvaccinated kids”
This claim is a clear demonstration of the misunderstanding/misuse of statistics, called the base-rate fallacy. To illustrate: suppose a study shows that 20% of car accidents are caused by drunk drivers. So 80% of accidents are caused by sober drivers.
Falling for the base-rate fallacy: therefore driving drunk is four times safer than driving sober.
The flaw is of course the far lower base rate of drunk drivers. So the percentage of drunk drivers causing accidents is far higher than the percentage of sober drivers causing accidents.
When applied to vaccination, the important thing is the percentages of sicknesses in the vaccinated and unvaccinated kids, not the absolute numbers, simply because (fortunately) many more kids are vaccinated. That is, we must compare (# vaxed cases / # vaxed people) with (# unvaxed cases / # unvaxed people). One anti-vaxer claimed, “We have mumps outbreaks in the UK where 92% of the affected were fully vaccinated .…”67 Now I have learned not to trust unsourced claims from anti-vaxers (and this is so for even most sourced claims because of their propensity to misrepresent the sources), but even if we take this claim as factual, this is insufficient.
To illustrate: suppose that in an outbreak, there were 100 cases of mumps, and 92 of them were vaccinated and 8 were not, to match the claimed figures. But what was not said was, say, this was from a sample of 10,000, of whom 98% were vaccinated, i.e. 9800 people were vaccinated and 200 were not. So in reality, the properly weighted percentages were 92/9800 = 0.94% incidence of mumps in the vaccinated people, and 8/200 = 4% in non-vaccinated people. Therefore, these statistics, when properly understood, show that there is over four times the likelihood of getting mumps when non-vaccinated.
However, real-world stats show that the chance is far higher than that. E.g. with measles, “[vaccine] exemptors were 35 times more likely to contract measles than were vaccinated persons (95% confidence interval …)”.68
Another common fallacy is called Simpson’s paradox. Sometimes an aggregation of data can produce a misleading impression when grouped according to only one variable, When there is another variable that makes a huge difference, such as age, it is right to separate the data into different groups. E.g. in Israel and UK, a combination of all age groups can make it seem like vaccination is not very effective. But older people are both more susceptible and more often vaccinated. This can skew the overall data. But when the data are separated into age groups, every age group shows that vaccination is very good at preventing C19.
When each group shows one consistent trend while the aggregate seems to support a different trend, this is called Simpson's Paradox.
“Babies get too many vaccines at once”
No, they don’t. This is another argument that seriously underestimates how good a working immune system is. In reality, even a thousand vaccines at once would use only about 1% of the adaptive immune system. This is because a child’s immune system must fight several thousand ‘new’ antigens every day from the environment, including from perfectly safe food, and even more with every cut or graze.
Indeed, this starts when a baby is born, transferring from the sterile environment in the womb to being exposed to trillions of bacteria in the outside world. The colon especially starts to be populated by all the ‘good’ bacteria (‘probiotics’) that we need for good health (this bacterial population is called the microbiome, and the number of bacterial cells in a healthy body can outnumber the human cells). The immune system must adapt and make sure that the bacteria can’t invade the bloodstream, i.e. septicaemia, which could cause fatal sepsis. There are thousands of bacterial species involved, each with its own set of antigens. And even after that, every cut and graze exposes the immune system to still more antigens.
This should put the vaccination schedule into perspective. All the vaccines together comprise only about 150 antigens. This is a fraction of a percent of the antigen load a healthy child faces every day. And even aside from this, although now we protect children against more diseases than decades ago, the number of antigens in the schedule has decreased about 20-fold.69
Antibody-dependent Enhancement (ADE)
ADE is an issue when binding (non-neutralizing) antibodies help a virus invade a cell. Binding antibodies place a target on invaders, marking them for destruction by immune cells, but not preventing them from being infective in the mean time. However, sometimes, the viruses are not destroyed, and the viruses can use the antibodies like a Trojan horse to invade macrophages, a type of white blood cell that is meant to destroy the virus. But instead, the virus replicates inside the macrophage. This is an issue for some viral diseases, most infamously Dengue fever, where a second different strain exploits the binding antibodies induced by the first infecting strain. However, SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t seem to infect macrophages, because macrophages don’t have the same receptors (ACE2) that the viral spike protein uses to infect respiratory epithelial cells. So ADE seems intrinsically unlikely.
And with Dengue fever, ADE is a harmful condition that is far worse from the virus than from the vaccine. Also, the new mRNA vaccines make ADE even less likely, because they induce a narrower response to the viral spike protein, by which the virus infects cells. So the antibodies are neutralizing antibodies, i.e. those that stop the virus infecting cells without needing immune cells. And if the virus is unable to infect, then it cannot infect macrophages and produce ADE! So if ADE really were a concern, the RNA vaccines are least likely to be a problem, traditional vaccines more of a problem because they induce non-neutralizing antibodies, and the virus most of all! And if ADE were occurring, then we would expect more severe disease in vaccinated people. But the worldwide experience is that vaccinated people who catch C19 have less severe disease.
“Look at all the dangerous things listed in the package insert!”
Much of this type of argument is addressed in the above section about poisons. Also, we note that these inserts are written by the same ‘Big Pharma’ that is often vilified (see below), and usually approved by government departments such as the FDA in the USA. They are legal documents, not medical ones, and apply to all prescription medicines as well.
One thing that anti-vaxers pick up on are the reported side effects that the inserts are required to list, even without any proof of causation. And often, there are articles on junk websites with mendacious clickbait titles. One that has been doing the rounds is a heading, usually in the obligatory all-capitals:
FDA announced that vaccines are causing autism:
The FDA has published conclusive proof on their website that the dtap vaccine can cause autism.
Then usually something about the FDA ‘admitting’ a causal link.
But the highlighted paragraph which they hope people will not read carefully is:
Adverse events reported during post-approval use of Tripedia vaccine include idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, SIDS, anaphylactic reaction, cellulitis, autism, convulsion/grand mal convulsion, encephalopathy, hypotonia, neuropathy, somnolence and apnea. Events were included in this list because of the seriousness or frequency of reporting. Because these events are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequencies or to establish a causal relationship to components of Tripedia vaccine.
I have italicized some key words above, which should make it clear that these are voluntarily reported claims. There is no endorsement of whether the reports are accurate. Indeed, they make it clear that there is no proof that the vaccine actually caused these problems.
Vaccine injury stories are not what they seem. E.g the USA government maintains the VAERS – the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, and Australia has TGA Database of Adverse Event Notifications. Anti-vaxers point to these as evidence for widespread problems. But in reality, these are collections of unverified reports, even saying so up-front:
In accessing the database we encourage consumers to understand that a report of an adverse event does not necessarily indicate there is a causal link between a medicine and an adverse outcome.
VAERS also has the following:
VAERS accepts reports of adverse events and reactions that occur following vaccination. Healthcare providers, vaccine manufacturers, and the public can submit reports to the system. While very important in monitoring vaccine safety, VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. In large part, reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases. This creates specific limitations on how the data can be used scientifically. Data from VAERS reports should always be interpreted with these limitations in mind.
Some of these reports that made it into the database were demonstrably false claims that vaccines cause Shaken Baby Syndrome, and even absurd ones such as one claiming that vaccines turned into the Incredible Hulk. In fact, under 3% of the cases in the VAERS database were definitely caused by vaccines—and most of this small fraction were minor injuries like low-grade fever or soreness at the injection site.70 “When you do the real numbers, the risk of serious vaccine injury is orders of magnitude less than 1%.”71
In fact, although the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) in the USA has an even lower standard of proof than even a civil case (preponderance of evidence), it has awarded comparatively very few payouts. From 2006 to 2014, 1,876 of those received compensation, which sounds like a lot, until it is compared with about 2.5 billion doses of vaccines were administered in those years. This means under one chance in a million risk of harm serious enough to warrant a payout.72
The old discredited argumentum ad VAERSum fallacy has received a new life because of the far greater number reporting on the C19 vaccines, which is hardly surpriing with a highly publicized mass-vaccination campaign. For instance, when I received my shots, I was encouraged to sign up for V-safe on my Smartphone so I could report adverse effects. Every day, then every week, I received texts asking me to report symptoms, big and small. With so many more people reporting, it should not be surprising that there are many more adverse reports than for other vaccines. It certainly seems odd that if there were a conspiracy to hide ill effects of the vaccine, the CDC would go out of its way to encourage reporting them! It is thus unfair to cite a 2009 Harvard study claiming that only 1% of vaccine adverse reactions are reported. That is irrelevant for today, and in any case, this applies to all adverse reactions from the very minor pain in the injection site to severe. The severe reactions were reported more often; minor ones, not so much. I never bothered to report any.
But to put it in perspective, whatever the numbers of VAERS-reported (not verified!) vaccine-caused deaths, they are a minuscule percentage of the total number of people vaccinated. Suppose (arguendo) that it’s the highest number so far, 14,506 (as of 2 Nov 2021). That is 0.0065% of the 223M people fully vaccinated at the time. Remember, as documented above, the case fatality rate of the disease is about 1.6%, so the vaccine is about 250× safer. Even the proponents of hydroxychloroquine have said that it reduces the mortality rate of corona patients to 0.7% or perhaps 0.5% (see below). So taking the most pessimistic vax death figure and the most optimistic HCQ figure, the vax is still about 40× safer than catching the Rona and treating with HCQ, or ivermectin for that matter.
In reality, even offically reported deaths are an even lower percentage out of the hundreds of millions of vaccinated people, and confirmed deaths far lower still—they can be counted on your fingers:
Reports of death after COVID-19 vaccination are rare. More than 459 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through November 29, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 10,128 reports of death (0.0022%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem. CDC clinicians review reports of death to VAERS including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records. A review of reports indicates a causal relationship between the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and TTS, a rare and serious adverse event—that causes blood clots with low platelets—which has caused or directly contributed to six confirmed deaths.
Vaccine manufacturers are protected from lawsuits
The above vaccine injury court provides protection for the one in a million who are injured by vaccines. This is a better system than relying on the lawsuit lottery. This can result in payouts for clients with the most persuasive lawyers. Also, it can mean that even if a company wins, the legal fees are still like a loss in countries without a ‘loser pays’ system. It could mean that companies would need large lawsuit insurance—and pass on the cost to consumers—or shy off making these life-saving vaccines altogether. Fears of vexatious litigation already makes other products and services more expensive, and has prevented us from having other nice things altogether.
Also, as explained in the section on Big Pharma, a company that makes a life-saving product will earn lots ot money. A company with a reputation for dodgy product will lose lots of money, or even be criminally prosecuted. A dead customer will not buy any more products, and neither will family or friends.
Vaccine injury lawyer supports vaccination!
In fact, the commonest vaccine injuries have nothing to do with the components of the vaccine, but are shoulder injuries from an improperly used needle. One specialist vaccine injury lawyer, Leah Durant, suffered such an injury. But far from being an anti-vaxer, she is a strong supporter:
Vaccines keep us healthy. They eradicate disease. If I had children, I would get them vaccinated.73
And when parents ask for her help to try to evade a vaccination requirement for a school, she refuses. Instead, she says:
I talk to them about my personal view about vaccinations and the fact that I feel vaccines are safe.
“God made a perfect immune system and doesn’t need our help”
Yes, He did, but we are now in a fallen world. The present curse-affected immune system demonstrably doesn’t protect us from every disease, as shown by the millions who have died from such diseases over history. The same applies to those who think ‘natural is good’, a form of the naturalistic fallacy, since nature is cursed (plagues are also ‘natural’). In a fallen world, there have also been many mutations of bacteria and viruses, which now cause diseases that were not there in an originally created very good world.
We should also note that if people were consistent with such claims, then they wouldn’t take care of any broken skin, because why does God need our help to wash and dress wounds given that the immune system He designed can manage without our help? Nor should we apply plasters or stitches to bleeding wounds, because God created Adam with a perfect blood-clotting system that doesn’t need our clever help. (But see Jesus’ reaction when Satan made a similar suggestion to Him—Matthew 4:6–7.)
Also, since God gave Adam perfect eyesight, then we shouldn’t wear glasses, since why does God need our help with His (now broken) design of the eyes with our ‘clever’ refractive aids?
Such a claim is also an affront to God’s sovereignty. God not only ordains the ends, but the means. If God chooses to bless someone with freedom from diseases, the means by which He bestows this blessing could certainly include vaccination. I’m reminded of this old tale:
A very religious man was once caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbour came by in a canoe and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.”
“No thanks,” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”
A short time later the police came by in a boat. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.”
“No thanks,” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”
A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said. “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.”
“No thanks,” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”
All this time the floodwaters continued to rise, until soon they reached above the roof and the religious man drowned. When he arrived at heaven he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.”
“Yes, you did my child,” replied the Lord. “And I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter. But you never got in.”
Of course, God could have rescued him supernaturally, and it is biblical to seek healing first from Him. The point is that unless one believes that God is no longer the sovereign of even this fallen world, He is also worthy of praise for the development of such things as surgical advances, antibiotics, and vaccines, and in particular, ones that take advantage of His designed immune system. If, as seems likely, an effective vaccine is developed for the Ebola that is currently wiping out many thousands (written in January 2015), such outbreaks amid fears of worldwide epidemics will be consigned to history books. We will then have a right to also see this as part of His divine blessing—just as when He supernaturally heals without any mediate cause.
Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.
If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must beware lest he become a suicide in God’s eyes. By the same reasoning a person might forego eating and drinking, clothing and shelter, and boldly proclaim his faith that if God wanted to preserve him from starvation and cold, he could do so without food and clothing. Actually that would be suicide. It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.
No, my dear friends, that is no good. Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way:
Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above.
See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.
Moreover, he who has contracted the disease and recovered should keep away from others and not admit them into his presence unless it be necessary. Though one should aid him in his time of need, as previously pointed out, he in turn should, after his recovery, so act toward others that no one becomes unnecessarily endangered on his account and so cause another’s death. “Whoever loves danger,” says the wise man, “will perish by it” [Ecclus. 3:26]. If the people in a city were to show themselves bold in their faith when a neighbor’s need so demands, and cautious when no emergency exists, and if everyone would help ward off contagion as best he can, then the death toll would indeed be moderate. But if some are too panicky and desert their neighbors in their plight, and if some are so foolish as not to take precautions but aggravate the contagion, then the devil has a heyday and many will die. On both counts this is a grievous offense to God and to man—here it is tempting God; there it is bringing man into despair. Then the one who flees, the devil will pursue; the one who stays behind, the devil will hold captive so that no one escapes him.
“Vaccination supporters are Big Pharma shills”
Of course, this is an ‘abusive ad hominem ’ argument that’s far too common among anti-vaxers. A similar argument that is at least not a personal attack is to complain about the large profits of pharmaceutical companies.
I prefer vaccines to be made from profit-oriented companies, because they will earn profits only if buyers are confident that they will work. And probably even more importantly, they will suffer bad losses if they make something that hurts someone. Conversely, non-profit also means non-loss, and I can see little worse than decisions made by people who don’t stand to lose if they hurt people. As Adam Smith, actually a moral philosopher before he turned to economics, said about 200 years ago, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” In this fallen world, selfishness is a ubiquitous human condition.
Also, the polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk famously refused to profit from his work, which probably could have made him $7 billion if he had patented it. Another thing, the flu shot is under $30, while there would be much more pharmaceutical profit if a person had to be hospitalized from influenza, or in days gone by, be maintained in an iron lung from polio.
Sometimes this argument is accompanied by claims that ‘Pharma’ must mean ‘sorcery’, because it comes from pharmakeia, which is translated that way in the New Testament. However, such claims display ignorance of the difference between Classical Greek and the Koinē Greek of the NT. Like most Greek-derived terms in English, the Classical Greek meaning was used. In particular, ‘pharmacy’ was derived via Old French farmacie, in turn derived from the Medieval Latin pharmacia, in turn from from the Classical Greek meaning of pharmakeia (φαρμακεία), meaning medicine. In turn, this was related to pharmakon (φάρμακον) i.e. a drug, whether a cure or a poison.
Finally, many of the anti-vax sites complaining about pharmaceutical profits have huge web stores for their own products. It’s not clear from biblical, or even economic, principles why ‘Big Pharma’ is evil while the multibillion dollar ‘Big Alterna’, ‘Big Essentia’, ‘Big Herba’, ‘Big Natura’, ‘Big Organica’, and ‘Big Supplementia’ (or ‘Big Placebo’) are good.
Every supermarket has rows of shelves full of natural supplements, and many of these supplements contain heavy metals such as iron, copper, and so on. But because these are apparently a natural cure, they are ok, but dangerous when minute doses are put into life-saving vaccines.
“Vaccines contain parts of aborted babies”
As it stands, this claim is false. There are no baby parts in vaccines. There are not even fetal cells. There is a most tenuous connection between abortion and vaccines, as follows:
Bacteria are genuinely living organisms, so can be cultured on nutrients. Viruses are not living,74 so require some living cells to be cultured on. Pasteur’s pioneering vaccination against rabies, caused by lyssaviruses, was obtained from the nerves of rabbits that had died from the disease. Pasteur weakened the virus by drying the nerve tissue for 5–10 days. Now most rabies is cultured on embryonic eggs—but those of chickens (‘RabAvert’), not humans.
Unfortunately, some vaccines have been cultured on cell lines that came originally from aborted babies: one (MRC-5) from an abortion that was performed in September 1966 and one (WI-38) that was performed in July 1962. There is no question that these original abortions were sinful. (For the HEK-293 dating to 1972/3, see COVID-19 update.)
CMI takes a strongly pro-life position, that the human individual life begins at conception/fertilization, thus abortion is totally wrong, even for rape and incest (do children of rapists deserve the death penalty?). But note: cell lines . This means descendants of descendants of descendants of one cell from each of these babies. And when a virus reproduces inside a cell, the cell is destroyed. So there are neither fetal cells nor fetal body parts.75
The above is the tenuous connection between vaccines and abortion. However, no new embryos are being generated for the purpose of culturing vaccines—this would be immoral. Rather, these vaccines use the cell lines from a baby already killed decades ago, and that not for the purpose of creating vaccines. Any cultures from these original lines are likely to be now removed by tens of thousands of generations. That deed was unfortunately done, and cannot be undone. There is also no evidence of any ‘moral hazard’76 —that it would lead to more abortions. It would be a different matter when it comes to proposals to abort babies now, specifically to make vaccines, then my colleagues and I agree that we should refuse such vaccines and insist on ethical manufacture, such as the new recombinant technology.
Again, as bacteria don’t need to be cultured on live cells, this objection cannot be used to oppose any vaccines against bacterial diseases! Also, although influenza is a viral disease, none of the influenza vaccines have any connection with these babies. Rather, the most widely used flu shot was cultured in fertilzed chicken eggs, which is not surprising because influenza was originally a benign bird virus. The newer cell-based flu vaccines are cultured on Madin–Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) cells. Both are allowable under the Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1:28.
A similar comparison would be organ donation. Would we refuse a life-saving organ that was from a victim of a drunk driver for example who listed “Organ Donor” on the driver’s license, because he was killed in a sinful way? Accepting this organ is in no way condoning drunk driving. Another example: it would be totally immoral to murder someone to harvest his organs, even if it would save another person’s life. However, if someone you loved was murdered during an armed robbery, would it be immoral to consent to organ donation, so that even though a terrible sin had been committed, something good came from it, one silver lining on a very dark cloud? And would acceptance of such an organ mean condoning the murder? Similarly, should we refuse a life-saving treatment that is the one good thing that came from the abomination of murdering those two babies?77
Yet another comparison is with Nazi Germany. The Apollo moon landings were made with rocket technology that had begun in WW2 under Wernher von Braun, who made the V2 rockets that bombarded England. A BBC article, “Is it right to use Nazi research if it can save lives?” pointed out:
Von Braun’s presence on the Apollo programme was no outlier. More than 120 German scientists and engineers joined him there, including fellow SS officer Kurt Debus (who became director of Nasa’s Launch Operations Center) and Bernhard Tessmann (designer of the colossal Vertical Assembly Building at what is now Kennedy Space Center).
They were among 1,600 scientists recruited by spies as part of Operation Paperclip at the end of World War Two – all shielded from prosecution, given safe passage to the US, and allowed to continue their work.
Allied forces also snapped up other Nazi innovations. Nerve agents such as Tabun and Sarin (which would fuel the development of new insecticides as well as weapons of mass destruction), the antimalarial chloroquine, methadone and methamphetamines, as well as medical research into hypothermia, hypoxia, dehydration and more, were all generated on the back of human experiments in concentration camps.
Particleboard, forms of synthetic rubber and the soft drink Fanta were also developed by the Germans under Nazi rule.78
Note especially chloroquine, which is often promoted as a COVID cure along with the very similar hydroxychoroquine (HCQ). But chloroquine has its origins in Nazi Germany, including unethical medical experiments on Dachau concentration camp inmates forcibly infected with malaria from 1942–1945. Some of the doctors involved were hanged as war criminals after the post-WW2 Doctors’ Trial. In particular, chloroquine was made by the notorious chemical cartel IG Farben, which also made the life-saving sulfanilimide antibacterial Protonsil, as well as synthetic fuel and polyurethane. But its notoriety was due to its manufacture of the genocidal Zyklon B cyanide tablets used to exterminate millions of Jews at Auschwitz–Birkenau and Majdanek during the Holocaust.
The general principle here is that the beneficiary of the organ must not have been complicit in the crime in the slightest (called ‘formal cooperation in evil’). Actually the biblical ethical principles were deduced centuries ago. First, there is the Principle of Double Effect. That is, if a contemplated action has both good and bad effects, then it is permissible only if it is not wrong in itself and if it does not require that one directly intend the bad result. Second, there is “remote mediate material cooperation”, meaning that the moral object of the co-operator (in this case, the one being vaccinated) and that of the wrong-doer (the abortionist who aimed for a dead baby) are distinct. Under this principle, vaccination can be allowed if necessary to prevent severe illness and death (which it does), and if we also clearly condemn both the two abortions from which cell lines were derived and any future abortion to create more cell lines (which incidentally was not the purpose of the two abortions in question).79,80
An official statement from the Roman Catholic Church, which for all its flaws, has been among the staunchest defenders of the unborn, is notable here. The Pontifical Academy for Life, the Vatican’s official voice in the area of abortion/right-to-life, wrote a considered statement on this issue, at the request of the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future (and now former) Pope Benedict XVI, in response to Debi Vinnedge of Children of God for Life.
This statement would certainly prefer that no vaccines were made on cell lines from aborted babies. It further strongly urges its flock to demand alternatives without any ethical taint. E.g. the FDA has approved a cell line that originates in human tumour tissue, and another from a non-human tumour, neither of which didn’t require human beings to be killed. Also, some promising measles and rubella vaccines have been made by recombinant technology, but it might take a while for the bureaucrats to approve them. But until these alternatives exist, the statement states that it is permissible to use these vaccines. Indeed, if we did not, we would allow the further evil of endangering one’s own children and the whole community:
As regards the diseases against which there are no alternative vaccines which are available and ethically acceptable, it is right to abstain from using these vaccines if it can be done without causing children, and indirectly the population as a whole, to undergo significant risks to their health. However, if the latter are exposed to considerable dangers to their health, vaccines with moral problems pertaining to them may also be used on a temporary basis. The moral reason is that the duty to avoid passive material cooperation is not obligatory if there is grave inconvenience. Moreover, we find, in such a case, a proportional reason, in order to accept the use of these vaccines in the presence of the danger of favouring the spread of the pathological agent, due to the lack of vaccination of children. This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German measles.81,82
CMI is an Evangelical Protestant organization, but we cited the well thought-out-response from the Vatican precisely because the Roman Catholic Church is well known for being the archetypical pro-life organization. It is a sad fact that it took Evangelical organizations quite a long time to catch up. In the 1960s and 70s, some of the best known Evangelical groups were not opposed to legalization of abortion. But here is a recent statement from the The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:
Clearly, the process by which these vaccines are made is not ethically ideal.
Therefore, we should continue to advocate for use of alternatives when available and for the development of future vaccines to be carried out by other means.
The key consideration in whether using currently available vaccines is licit or immoral is whether there is material cooperation with the evil act of abortion. If the abortion was conducted in order to harvest tissues that were to be used for the vaccine, then it would clearly be immoral. But in the case of the vaccines listed above, the abortion was carried out for other reasons and the tissue was acquired post-mortem for the purpose medical research.
To determine the morality of using the tissue, it is helpful to compare it to another situation: the use of organs from a person who has been murdered. If a doctor were to offer to transplant a kidney or heart from the murder victim into a Christian, we would likely not have any objection. The primary concern would be whether the victim consented to organ donation prior to their death. But no one would say the Christian who received the organ was morally responsible in any way for the murder. Nor should we be overly concerned with the “slippery slope”of people being murdered in order to expand the number of organ donations. (If we saw evidence of that happening, however, we should change our objection.)
Currently, the use of the vaccines is not increasing the number of abortions that are being carried out every year. So the question is merely whether accepting the vaccine would be cooperating with the killing of the child in the 1960s. For a number of reasons, we would argue that is it not. The primary reason being that this situation is morally analogical to the case of the murder victim. For this reason we believe the use of the vaccines is justifiable based on the fact that we cannot change the way the cell cultures were obtained, there are no available alternatives, and the effectiveness of the vaccines as a means of preserving life and preventing suffering is clear.
We certainly respect the opinion of Christians who would disagree with our reasoning on this issue. However, we would add that a parent who refused to have their child vaccinated in order to avoid the connection—however remote—to the cooperation with abortion, is morally responsible for the outcome of that choice. If their child were to get sick and/or die because of the rejection of the vaccine, they would be morally responsible.
Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world where it is almost impossible to do good without some indirect connection to an act of evil. As Christians we should strive to avoid cooperating with evil and prevent it from occurring in the future (e.g., we should oppose the making of new vaccines using the ethically tainted tissue), but we should not risk the lives of our children in order to avoid a remote connection that is tangentially related to an evil act.
There are helpful and strategic ways we can advocate for pro-life issues. Neglecting the use of something so inherently pro-life based on its history is not one of them.83
In any case, there remains a moral duty to continue to fight and to employ every lawful means in order to make life difficult for the pharmaceutical industries which act unscrupulously and unethically. However, the burden of this important battle cannot and must not fall on innocent children and on the health situation of the population—especially with regard to pregnant women.
An example of an alternative that does exist is the newer and more effective shingles vaccine Shingrix, made by recombinant technology, which is superseding Zostavax, which has residual components of the cell line MRC-5 cells.
And governments require a multitude of tests before any vaccination is released to the public. Of course, conspiracy theorists might argue that the government is somehow complicit, but what for? So, that it can cost the very same government millions of dollars in dealing with increased pandemics like swine flu, for example—a disease that the very same government officials would be likely to catch if they did not take the same flu shots they were advocating.
There is a relatively new Walvax-2 cell line that dates to 2015, from Wuhan, China. This abortion was obtained very unethically, even by the standards of abortion, by means of the ‘water bag’ method, illegal in the USA, that removes the entire amniotic sac. There would be real problems with supporting vaccines connected to this one, because it is not remote in time like the others. Fortunately, at present there are no vaccines that have been developed from the Walvax-2 cell line. Now is the time to insist that any new vaccines are not made with this line, but with the many ethical alternatives readily available. Walvax-2 might be treated with skepticism in the West anyway, because it comes from the city where SARS-CoV-2 originated.
As for developments in C19 vaccines, some are being trialled on fetal cell lines. One is the HEK-293 from an unborn baby in the Netherlands from 1972/3 (HEK = human embryonic kidney). Until 1984, abortion was illegal in the Netherlands except genuinely to save the mother’s life. So this cell line might have been from either a life-threatening condition such as a tubal pregnancy or a miscarriage, not from a sinful abortion (see What about abortion to save the mother’s life?). But either way, the baby was well enough developed to extract specific kidney cells. There is also the PER.C6 from a baby (wrongly) aborted in 1985. There are also those which are not connected to any cell lines: John Paul II Medical Research Institute, Bharat Biotech/Indian Council of Medical Research,, Sinofarm, Laboratorio Avi-Mex, and Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR). Novovax, COVAXX / United Biomedical, Medicago, Rega Institute, Clover Biopharmaceuticals, Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and Institut Pasteur and Themis and Merck, used fetal cells lines in some tests but not others.84
There is also the recombinant protein vaccine project (UQ-CSL V451) of the University of Queensland in partnership with Australian biotech company CSL. This manufactures the spike proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 so the immune system can be trained on it. In the virus, the spikes are coiled, but when they meet the target cell, they uncoil and infect it. The tendency to uncoil would affect the recombinant vaccine as well, but the UQ has developed a molecular clamp to keep the spike proteins coiled. This way, the immune system can be trained to attack the virus before the spike can uncoil and infect. The proposed vaccine will also contain the long-used MF59 adjuvant.85
RNA vaccines and HEK-293 testing
RNA vaccines discussed above have yet another advantage in not using fetal cell lines for culturing the vaccines. Such vaccines are less ethically tainted. The two main C19 vaccines in the USA are Pfizer and Moderna, which are RNA vaccines.
However, they did use the HEK-293 for testing early on as proof of concept. But if we were to oppose the vaccines because they were tested on cell lines descended from an unborn baby, then we would have to abandon just about every medicine on the market. For example.86
- Over-the-counter pain relief: Panadol/Tylenol (paracetamol/acetaminophen), Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen), Aleve (naproxen), Lidocaine
- Over-the-counter cold/flu relief: Mucinex (guaifenesin mucus thinner), dextromethorphan (cough suppressant), and the decongestants pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine
- Over-the-counter allergy relief: Benadryl (dephenhydramine), Claritin (loratidine)
- Over-the-counter stomach/intestinal relief: Tums, Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate)
- Prescription cholesterol meds: Lipitor (atorvostatin), Simvastatin, Pravastatin
- Prescription asthma relief/bronchodilator: Albuterol/Ventolin (salbutamol)
- Prescription diabetic medication: Glucophage (metformin)
- Prescription blood pressure lowering: Lisinopril, Losartan, Metoprolol, Valsartan
- Prescription acid reflux relief: Omeprazole
- AND ironically, several of the drugs touted as miracle cures for C19 although the evidence is equivocal: Remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, azithromycin
While we would prefer an ethically untainted vaccine (and for that matter, ethically untainted drugs), what happens if the only vaccine available is one the comes from either of these two fetal cell lines? I would concur with Australian Catholic priest and ethicist Rev. Kevin McGovern:
ChAdOx1 may be an ethically compromised vaccine. It is grown in a cell line called HEK293, which is widely believed to have been developed from cells from a human foetus which was electively aborted in 1973. However, even this is not certain. Professor Frank Graham who developed this cell line has said that, to the best of his knowledge, the origin of these cells is unclear, for they could have come either from an elective abortion or a spontaneous miscarriage [as above, because abortion was illegal in the Netherlands at the time, it was likely from a tubal pregnancy].87
It should be stressed that the cells which are being used now to grow this vaccine are cells which are descended from the cells originally sourced from the foetus. Thus, while their lineage can be traced back to the foetus, the cells in use today are not the cells from the foetus. Further, the vaccine itself does not contain cells or DNA pieces which are recognisably human. The cells are killed when the virus grows in them, and the process of vaccine purification removes cell debris as well as any growth reagents.
If ChAdOx1 is ethically compromised, what should be done by religious leaders and other people like myself who are concerned about this?
First of all, we should make known our moral objection to ethically compromised vaccines, and lobby governments, researchers, and healthcare systems to prepare and make available vaccines which are not ethically compromised. At the time of writing, the World Health Organisation has identified 169 candidate vaccines, 30 of which are already undergoing clinical trials.88 Could the Australian government sign a letter of intent with another research team, so an ethically uncompromised vaccine could also be produced in Australia?
Second, religious leaders and people like myself also have an educative role to play—that is, a role in forming consciences about this issue. Part of this role is educating about the existence of, and problems with, ethically compromised vaccines.
Another part of this role is helping people to decide what to do if only an ethically compromised COVID-19 vaccine is available. Using this vaccine would involve what Catholic ethics calls very remote mediate material cooperation with the original elective abortion. Our educative role helps people to see that this very remote cooperation does not involve condoning abortion, and also does not potentially encourage further abortions. Our educative role also involves helping people to recognise the possibly very serious consequences of not being vaccinated against COVID-19. For if we are not vaccinated, we could catch the virus, infect others, and possibly cause their deaths. All up, our educative role helps people to see that if only an ethically compromised COVID-19 vaccine exists, the only truly pro-life decision is to receive the vaccine so as to save lives.
Finally, there is one thing which religious leaders and people like myself must not do. If only an ethically compromised COVID-19 vaccine exists, we must not in any way encourage or support people to refuse to be vaccinated. On this matter, I note that on social media, Archbishop Anthony Fisher, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, recently stated,89 “I have not, nor would I, call for Catholics to boycott the vaccine if it became available.”90
While vaccines stimulate the body’s own immune system (active immunity), another possibility is using antibodies already made by immune systems of those who have recovered from the virus (passive immunity). The two products under development are called convalescent plasma and hyperimmune globulin. Such passive immunity treatments have been used for the other nasty virus that came from a benign bat virus, Ebola. One advantage of passive immunity is its immediate effect, while active immunity takes a week or two to develop. But passive immunity is really a stop-gap measure to save lives in the absence of a vaccine. We really don’t want an ongoing supply of people recovering from the disease; we would like people to avoid getting the disease in the first place!
A more recent Catholic Note on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith makes much the same points. For those still objecting on moral grounds, it points out that they have responsibilities not to endanger other people:
At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule, a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary. In any case, from the ethical point of view, the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good. In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed. Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other prophylactic means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, and who are the most vulnerable.91
I think the way forward is to use somatic (‘adult’) stem cells for testing, and for culturing where needed. Adult stem cells are ethically derived (no destruction of any embryo), and have produced dozens of cures. By contrast, the unethically derived embryonic stem cells, derived from destruction of human embryos, have produced no cures. (For more information on stem cells and the documented cures from adult stem cells, see Stem cells and Genesis.) The stem-cell requirements for vaccine testing should be less stringent than for growing new tissues or organs. Some organizations are already working on using adult stem cells in C19 vaccine research, such as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute.
Overall, there is far closer cooperation with abortion in doing business with companies that donate to the abortion and baby-part trafficking business Planned Parenthood than from getting any vaccines. We are not telling anyone what companies they should buy from, but some consistency would be good.
“Bill Gates supports vaccination to reduce population growth”
This is a very misleading half truth. One can disagree with Gates that the world is overpopulated—and I do. But it doesn’t mean that bearing false witness is acceptable. Here is the reality. Gates wants to reduce population growth (true). Gates supports vaccination as a means to this end (true). BUT Gates has repeatedly and clearly stated that vaccines save children’s lives. How can all these statements be true? Actually, they can be reconciled, and Gates has explained this repeatedly. One doesn’t need to agree with his reasoning, but one should not misrepresent it. He has repeatedly given the following argument (given in schematic form):
- Overpopulation is a problem (false)
- Poor people in poor countries have children partly to support them in old age (arguable)
- Child mortality is high (true for most of human history)
- So parents have lots of children to make sure that at least some survive to adulthood (possible)
- Vaccination lowers child mortality (true, and Bill Gates says this over and over)
- Therefore parents will not need to have so many children, since vaccinated kids will survive (this is his argument, again stated many times).
- Therefore Gates supports vaccination as a way both to reduce child mortality and to reduce population growth, and the above explains how they are not contradictory.
“The HPV vaccine encourages sexual immorality”
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths among women. Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes nearly all cases. “The causal role of human papillomavirus infections in cervical cancer has been documented beyond reasonable doubt.”92 And a study led by Dr Jiayao Lei, Ph.D. of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm of almost 1.7 million women,93 showed that those vaccinated before age 17 had a 90% reduction in cervical cancer in the 11-year study period (2006–2017) compared to women who had not received the vaccine.94
It is also likely that HPV has a role for prostate cancer, although the researchers say this is merely “highly likely” rather than “conclusive” as with cervical cancer.95 Thus an HPV vaccine that targets the strains of HPV involved in genital warts should drastically lower cancer deaths:
Like all vaccines, these HPV vaccines are not foolproof. They do not protect against all of the 100-plus types of HPV. But both vaccines are nearly 100% effective in preventing disease caused by high-risk strains of HPV—HPV 16 and 18—which together account for 70% of all cervical cancers, as well as many cancers of the vagina and vulva.96
The HPV vaccine is one of a number of vaccines that provides much stronger immunity than catching the disease. E.g. warts are also caused by human papillomaviruses, and it’s well known that they can recur. But the HPV vaccine is very effective against the strains that cause genital warts:
And while natural infections with HPV generate a minimal immune response—some people don’t produce any detectable antibodies—the vaccine can protect people for up to nine years. This ingenious technology is made from the protein that normally coats the virus, which self-assembles into particles that resemble it—known as virus-like particles—as it’s being manufactured. The protein is more concentrated in the vaccine than the virus, which is thought to help increase the potency of the immune response.97
The HPV can be spread through sexual contact. So one objection to the vaccine is that it encourages sexual immorality. However, it does no such thing. It might lower the risk of one of the physical consequences, but that is hardly the same as encouraging it. For comparison, seatbelts will protect drivers to some extent in a crash, but it doesn’t mean that seatbelts encourage reckless driving, therefore we should not install them. Also, HPV can affect virgins.98 Also, even though it’s a terrible thing to think about, what if your child were raped by someone HPV-positive? Even the moral hazard argument is unsound—we don’t want our kids to have sex before marriage, but if they make a mistake, do we want them punished with HPV or cervical cancer? It is also possible to catch it from a spouse. And, since one does not need to have intercourse to get HPV, shouldn’t we do everything to protect them, regardless?
“The government should not force people to be vaccinated”
This argument confuses two separate questions:
- Is something good (or bad)?
- Should the government mandate (or prohibit) it?
I.e. one can argue that something is good, without saying that the government should make it compulsory, whether vaccines, seatbelts, bicycle helmets, etc. And one can argue that tobacco, alcohol, recreational drugs are harmful, without arguing that the government should punish people for taking them.
For this article, I am not making an argument for the role of the government. Rather, I am noting that there is a logical distinction between “vaccines are good” and “vaccines should be compulsory”—the first does not entail the second.
“Love thy neighbour”
Another separate issue from government force is whether Christians should voluntarily get vaccinated regardless. There is a strong case that it is the best protection for the individual, by preventing disease. Also, because vaccination reduces the spread of illness (see Reduced transmission, above), it protects other people from the disease. This protection includes people too young or old to be vaccinated, immunocompromised people whose immune systems are less trainable by vaccines, or breakthrough cases. Such people are best protected by a ‘wall’ of vaccinated people that prevents the germs from reaching them. This walll is called herd immunity or community immunity.
Therefore, another good reason for getting vaccinated is caring for other people. This caring is explicitly expressed in Jesus’ Second Great Commandment, “Love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39, KJV), and Paul’s teaching “in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3, ESV). [H/T Dr Tony Dowden, educator/social scientist.]
This is hardly “communist”—it is biblical! The essence of of communism is not generosity with one's own wealth (or comfort, time, etc.), but generosity with other people’s wealth, taken by government force. Hence one can both oppose government mandates and support voluntary vaccination as the right thing to do.
What about hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin instead of Covid vaccines?
There has been many claims that these medicines are practically cures for C19. If I had caught the disease, I probably would have wanted to try them. These medicines have been around for decades so doctors know the safe doses and contra-indications. So I think this should be between patient and doctor, not politicians or bureaucrats.
However, the evidence is equivocal. Some of the studies have been severely criticized or even withdrawn for faulty methods or drawing unwarranted conclusions.99 Furthermore, even if we accept the most favorable claims of these drugs arguendo, they still show that vaccination is many times safer than getting the disease and treating it.
One touted cure is hydroxychloroquine, which has been prescribed for six decades against malaria, and also has anti-inflammatory effects that help lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But can it help against C19? One outspoken advocate of hydroxychloroquine, who is equally outspoken against C19 vaccines, is Dr Vladimir Zelenko.100 His study claimed that his treatment protocol of HCQ, zinc, and the antibiotic azythromycin reduced mortality rate to 0.7%. In a debate with me,101 he claimed 0.5%, so we will take the best figure. In the same debate, he made the preposterous claim that 200,000 people had died from the vaccine. So let’s take the absolute best case for HCQ and absolute worst case for the vaccine: Dr Zelenko’s own figures. 200,000 deaths from about 165M vaccinated people mean 0.12% mortality. So even his own figures show that vaccination is four times safer than getting the disease and treating it with his protocol! And in most cases, if you are vaccinated, you won’t get sick in the first place. For comparison, you might be able to treat a headache with paracetamol (= acetaminophen), but it would surely better not to have the headache at all.
It’s the same story with ivermectin. Ivermectin is an extremely important medicine to fight nematodes (roundworms), such as those that cause river blindness. It is also helpful against other parasites such as lice and scabies. But does this mean that it helps against coronaviruses?
Unfortunately, many studies have been marred by poor quality and even fakery. But not all. One study claimed that it reduced average disease duration from about 13 days to 8.102 But why be sick even 8 days when you can get a shot, and in the vast majority of cases, be over any side effects in a day or two, and with no cough or loss of sense of smell or taste? One of the most favorable studies showed that it still had a mortality rate of 1.4–3.9%, depending on the trial.103 This is 12 times safer even than Zelenko’s made-up and preposterous figures for C19-vaccine deaths.
However, the largest clinical trial to date, of 1,348 high-risk Covid-positive adults in Brazil, led by Dr Edward Mills, Professor of Health Sciences at Canada’s McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, where half were given IVM and half a placebo, found no difference.104
Another problem with some of the better studies goes back to what Ivermectin is undoubtedly very good for: killing nematodes. Some of the studies showed a benefit for Covid-patients in regions with high incidence of Strongyloidiasis, an intestinal disease caused by the nematode Strongyloides. But these benefits were not seen in regions with low incidence. The explanation is as follows: patients with severe Covid who need extra oxygen are given steroids like dexamethasone to reduce immune over-reaction (see below). But in patients with undiagnosed Strongyloidiasis, the reduction of the immune response allowed the nematode infection to get out of control. Not surprisingly, those patients given IVM showed health improvements. But this was not because IVM treated the coronavirus infection, but because it knocked back the Strongyloides infestation! So IVM has no relevance to Covid patients without Strongyloidiasis or other nematode diseases.105
Some promising Covid treatments, backed by clinical trials
Some have accused Big Pharma of opposing treatments with HCQ and IVM because these are cheap drugs that would make them little money. However, there are other cheap drugs approved precisely because proper clinical trials show that they help. Dexamethasone is a cheap glucocorticoid (type of steroid) that reduces death rate by 36% in patients needing extra oxygen,106 because glucocorticoids reduce lung damage from cytokine storms.107 The cheap antidepressant fluvoxamine (Luvox) also reduces rick of severe disease by 32%, probably by calming down the cytokine storms.108
Another promising treatment is the broad-spectrum antiviral drug molnupiravir. It has already been tested during Liberia’s Ebola 2016–2017 outbreak, and it has the advantage of being a pill.109 It will probably cost several hundred dollars per course.
In early November 2021, Pfizer announced that the antiviral Paxlovid pill causes 89% reduction in hospitalization and death in trial subjects with mild or moderate 19, as long as they took it within three days of diagnosis. Paxlovid works by inhibiting the SARS-CoV-2-3CL protease needed for replication.110
Monoclonal antibodies are also effective, that is, laboratory mass-produced antibodies for a specific antigen, derived from a cloned single B-cell.111 Monoclonal antibodies are given via intravenous (IV) infusion. However, they are expensive and hard to make, so cost about $2,000 per course. Monoclonal antibodies made to target cancer cell antigens are used in cancer therapy.
Decoy receptor. Cyrus Biotechnology has developed a modified version of the ACE2 receptor, by which the virus binds to cells. The modified version is called ACE2.v2.4, and is soluble and binds more strongly to the virus, including Omicron, than the natural receptor. Once so bound, the spike can’t infect a cell. ACE2.v2.4 also has anti-inflammatory/lung-protective enzymatic activity.
- Vaccination is one of the most important advances that God has allowed us to discover to alleviate the effects of the Curse.
- Vaccines train our immune system (which was designed by God to function in such a way) with dead or weakened germs, so it is ready to destroy invading live germs.
- Many diseases have been eliminated or drastically reduced by vaccines. There is no plausible alternative explanation for why particular diseases decreased so drastically at different times that correlate to when the particular vaccines became widespread. Further, the same diseases flare up in places with low vaccination rates. And such results are totally expected given what we know of how immunity works.
- Nothing is 100% safe. However, the safety of vaccination should not be compared with an impossible perfection, but with the (un)safety of non-vaccination. For example, the Covid-19 vaccines are about 1,000 times safer than the Covid-19 virus!
- Vaccines are accused of containing dangerous poisons. But whether anything is poisonous depends on the amount. The ‘toxic substances’ in vaccines are many times lower than the toxic dose. Some of the ‘toxins’ exist naturally in the body in far greater amounts than the vaccines. Others occur in much higher amounts in well known foods.
- Vaccines cannot cause the disease, since they are made from non-infectious biological entities. Some people get sick with the illness being vaccinated against just after vaccination, but before their immune system has been trained, so falsely think that the vaccination caused the illness. This is the post hoc ergo proper hoc fallacy. In other cases it is because it is a different illness (common cold rather than influenza, e.g.).
- There is no statistically significant evidence that vaccines cause autism, and much evidence to indicate that they do not.
- A claim that “We should trust God to heal us” fails for two reasons. First, such claimants would generally bandage wounds and wear seatbelts, rather than trust God to protect them from harm regardless. Second, given the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God, He is healing us through the wisdom He gave to the vaccine’s discoverers and prescribers.
- Vaccines do not have parts of aborted babies. True, some vaccines against viral diseases are cultured on cell lines from two babies aborted over 40 years ago, but no babies are being aborted today to make vaccines. Morally, it would be better to use an alternative, if it is available, but if not, it would be no different from using the organs of a person killed by sinful means—as long as the beneficiary played no part in the killing.
Overall summary statement (representing the position of CMI ministries generally)
Vaccination of minors, in most jurisdictions, remains a parent’s choice. Vaccination of adults remains their own choice. While there are real and immediate risks associated with vaccination, these are small overall, and the long-term risks of non-vaccination are much greater. In general, history has shown that vaccinations are safe and effective at preventing serious illness and death. We urge people to consult their own doctors regarding any decision involving their own or their family’s health; none of this article should be construed as individual-specific medical advice.
References and notes
- Sarfati, J., Miracles and science, creation.com/miracles, 1 Sep 2006. Return to text.
- Carter, R. and Sarfati, J., Why CMI rejects ‘conspiracy’ theorizing creation.com/conspiracy, 13 Apr 2017. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Should creationists accept quantum mechanics? J. Creation 26(1):116–123, 2012. Return to text.
- Weintraub, K., Pregnant women “didn’t have the data”—until now: COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, even for babies, study shows, USA Today, 28 Mar 2021. Return to text.
- Gray, K.J. and 20 others, COVID-19 vaccine response in pregnant and lactating women: a cohort study, American J. Obstetrics and Gynecology (AJOG), 25 Mar 2021. Return to text.
- See the graphs by YEC nuclear chemist Dr Jay Wile, For some diseases, it was vaccination, not sanitation, blog.drwile.com/?p=12101, 3 Feb 2014. Return to text.
- Wile, J.L. and Sommerville, E.A., Vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing disease, drwile.com/lnkpages/render.asp?vac_effective, 2009. Return to text.
- Dunlop, R., 9 vaccination myths busted. With science! mamamia.com.au/news/vaccination-myths-busted-by-science-cheat-sheet-on-immunisation, 12 November 2011. See also the very thorough article answering many medical and theological arguments against vaccination: Herrell, H., Should I Vaccinate My Child? howardisms.com, 5 May 2018. Return to text.
- Offit, P.A., The Anti-Vaccination Epidemic: Whooping cough, mumps and measles are making an alarming comeback, thanks to seriously misguided parents, online.wsj.com/articles/paul-a-offit-the-anti-vaccination-epidemic-1411598408,24 Sep 2014. Dr Offit is a top paediatrician and vaccine expert. Return to text.
- Cockburn, P., Polio: The deadly summer of 1956, The Independent, 1999, republished as independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/polio-the-deadly-summer-of-1956-2117253.html, 27 Oct 2010. Return to text.
- Parker, A., Growing Up Unvaccinated: I had the healthiest childhood imaginable. And yet I was sick all the time. slate.com/human-interest/2014/01/growing-up-unvaccinated-a-healthy-lifestyle-couldnt-prevent-many-childhood-illnesses.html, 6 Jan 2014. Return to text.
- This undesirable outcome arises from the perverse incentives involved. If something is not banned and it can be even remotely connected to harmful effects, the bureaucrats can be hauled before Congress and character-assassinated by the media. But if they ban this product that might have saved many lives, very few will link the lost lives to the absence of this product. When they do finally approve something while bragging it will save 100,000 lives per year, no one bothers to ask about the 1 million lives that must have been lost, by definition, while they held this product up for 10 years. So bureaucracies always tend towards delays and even banning over approval (Milton Friedman, [FDA =] “Frustrating Drug Advancement”, Newsweek, 8 Jan 1973, p. 49).
A good example is some beta blockers that were very effective at preventing a second heart attack. Scientists estimated that they could save 10,000 lives per year in the USA. But while some were approved in Europe for this purpose, the FDA bureaucrats held up the same drugs in the USA for years. This means that many tens of thousands of lives were lost by the delay (Theory, evidence and examples of FDA harm, Independent Institute, fdareview.org, accessed 3 Dec 2020). Now we see the same red tape holding up a potentially life-saving new vaccine (Makary, M., FDA career staff are delaying the vaccine as thousands of Americans die: We’ve gone from ‘Operation Warp Speed’ to develop a vaccine to ‘Operation Turtle Speed’ to review it, thedispatch.com, 4 Dec 2020).
Wading through red tape also costs much money, and the drug company must recoup this in sales to stay in business. This is a major reason new drugs can be so expensive (Gardner, J., New estimate puts cost to develop a new drug at $1B, adding to long-running debate, biopharmadive.com, 3 Mar 2020). Return to text.
- ‘Firing the rascals’ will make no difference, because the same incentives will apply. Expecting a change in outcomes without changes in incentives is like expecting a cat to bark. The only way to change things is to make it profitable for even the wrong people to do the right things. See Milton Friedman, Barking Cats, Newsweek, p. 70, 19 Feb 1973; Klein, D.B., Economists against the FDA: The quack platitudes that drive public policy are deadly, Foundation for Economic Education, 1 Sep 2020; fee.org. Return to text.
- COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, ourworldindata.org; Tracking coronavirus vaccinations around the world, nytimes.com. Return to text.
- Arias, M., Study on Pfizer vaccine shows 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 cases, axios.com, 14 Feb 2021. Return to text.
- Tayag, Y., The really surprising thing about fully vaccinated people who get COVID-19: The number of so-called “breakthrough” cases we’re seeing is even lower than expected, slate.com, 22 Apr 2021. Return to text.
- Porterfield, C., CDC: Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could significantly cut down on Coronavirus transmission, forbes.com, 29 Mar 2021. Return to text.
- Rasmussen, A.L. and Popescu, S.V., SARS-CoV-2 transmission without symptoms, Science 371 (6535):1206–1207, 19 Mar 2021. Return to text.
- Remmel, A., COVID vaccines and safety: what the research says, nature.com, 16 Feb 2021. Return to text.
- This was variable: low of 3,349 deaths during the 1986-87 flu season to a high of 48,614 in 2003-04, Estimates of deaths associated with seasonal influenza—United States, 1976–2007, cdc.gov, 27 August 2010. Return to text.
- Ianelli, V., Deaths from flu, 2013–2014 flu season, pediatrics.about.com, 14 Oct 2014. Return to text.
- Legge, A. et al., Rates and determinants of seasonal influenza vaccination in pregnancy and association with neonatal outcomes, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 6 Jan 2014, doi:10.1503/cmaj.130499. Return to text.
- Fell, D.B. et al., H1N1 Influenza Vaccination During Pregnancy and Fetal and Neonatal Outcomes, American Journal of Public Health 102 (6):e33-e40, 2012, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300606. Return to text.
- Wile, J.L., Flu shot during pregnancy produces unexpected benefits, blog.drwile.com/?p=12645, 3 Jul 2014. Return to text.
- Known as post-herpetic neuralgia, more common in older patients. Return to text.
- Vaccine Information Statements: Chickenpox, cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/varicella.html. Return to text.
- Chickenpox (Varicella) Vaccine, WebMD, webmd.com/children/vaccines/chickenpox-varicella-vaccine. Return to text.
- Complications of Measles, cdc.gov/measles/about/complications.html. Return to text.
- Craig, A.T., Heywood, A.E., Worth, H., Measles epidemic in Samoa and other Pacific islands, Lancet 20 (3):273–275, 1 Mar 2020. Return to text.
- Gold, G.E., MMR vaccine appears to confer strong protection from COVID-19: Few deaths from SARS-CoV-2 in highly vaccinated populations, researchgate.net, last updated 10 May 2020. Return to text.
- Gorvett, Z., The mystery of why some vaccines are doubly beneficial, bbc.com, 16 Sep 2020. This aligns with the research of Danish immunologist Christine Stabell Benn, whose research suggests that vaccines with live attenuated pathogens confer wider immunity than just against those pathogens. See Benn, C.S. and 3 others, Revaccination with live attenuated vaccines confer additional beneficial nonspecific effects on overall survival: A review, EBioMedicine 10 :312–317, 15 Jul 2016. Return to text.
- Devlin, H., Measles wipes out immune system’s memory, study finds: Scientists say threat posed by measles is ‘much greater than we previously imagined’, Guardian, 31 Oct 2019; citing 1. Petrova, V.N. and 13 others, Incomplete genetic reconstitution of B cell pools contributes to prolonged immunosuppression after measles, Science Immunology 4 (41):eaay6125, 1 Nov 2019 | doi:10.1126/sciimmunol.aay6125, 2. Mina, M.J. and 14 others, Measles virus infection diminishes preexisting antibodies that offer protection from other pathogens, Science 366 (6465):599–606, 1 Nov 2019 | doi:10.1126/science.aay6485. Return to text.
- Wile, J.L., Vaccines are very safe, drwile.com/lnkpages/render.asp?vac_safe#r1, 2009, Return to text.
- Budnick, L.D. and Ross, D.A., Bathtub-related drownings in the United States, 1979–1981, American J. Public Health 75:630–633, 1985. Return to text.
- When Western governments first began to introduce seatbelt legislation, some ‘anti’ campaigners pointed to situations in which people had even been trapped inside a burning vehicle from a malfunctioning belt. But the risk-reward tradeoff was and is overwhelmingly in favour of seat belt usage, i.e. while seat belts will kill/injure some people, they will save far more lives than that. The analogy to vaccination is clear. Airbags have also been known to injure some people in certain circumstances, but on the evidence one would much rather have them than not. Return to text.
- It is actually a mid-19th–century invention. Cedric M. Smith, Origin and Uses of Primum Non Nocere — Above All, Do No Harm! J. Clinical Pharmacology 45 (4): 371–377, Apr 2005 | doi:10.1177/0091270004273680. Return to text.
- Compare the self-contradictory arguments that atheopaths have used against Christianity and biblical creation, Sarfati, J., The illogic of anti-creationism, Creation 35(4):6, 2013; creation.com/anti-creationism-illogic. Return to text.
- Bergman, J., Understanding poisons from a creationist perspective, J. Creation 11(3):353–360, 1997; creation.com/poison. Return to text.
- The dose required to kill half the members of a tested population in a given duration. Return to text.
- Environmental Health & Safety, Safety In The Workplace, University of Florida, ehs.ufl.edu/programs/bio/toxins/toxin-table. Return to text.
- ‘Thio’ means that a sulphur atom has been substituted for an oxygen. Return to text.
- The mainly-USA term ‘thimerosal’ is the result of metathesis or switching of sounds in the word: the ‘o’ and ‘mer’. Return to text.
- Hence the term oligodynamic effect, from Greek oligos = few. It seems to be common among chalcophile metals like mercury, silver and copper, i.e. with an affinity for sulfur, so they disrupt vital sulfur-containing bacterial enzymes. Return to text.
- Jamieson W.A. and Powell, H.M., Merthiolate as a preservative for biological products, American J. Hygiene 14 :218–224, 1931. Return to text.
- Thiomersal (C₉H₉HgNaO₂S) has a relative molecular mass of 404.81, and mercury’s relative atomic mass is 200.592 or about 50%. Return to text.
- This assumes a 2.5 ounce (71 gram) serving, and tuna has an average of 0.427 parts per million of mercury. Mercury in canned tuna still a concern: New tests reinforce a need for some people to limit consumption, Consumer Reports, January 2011; consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2011/january/food/mercury-in-tuna/overview/index.htm Return to text.
- Note in original: Powell H.M. and Jamieson, W.A., Merthiolate as a germicide, American Journal of Hygiene 13 :296–310, 1931. Return to text.
- Baker, J.P., Mercury, Vaccines, and Autism: One Controversy, Three Histories, American Journal of Public Health 98 (2):244–53, 2008 | doi:10.2105/AJPH.2007.113159. Return to text.
- Ball, L.K., Ball, R., and Pratt, R.D., An assessment of thimerosal use in childhood vaccines, Pediatrics 107(5):1147–54, May 2001. Return to text.
- Pichichero M.E. et al., Mercury concentrations and metabolism in infants receiving vaccines containing thiomersal: a descriptive study, Lancet 360 (937):1737–1741, 30 Nov 2002 | doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(02)11682-5. Return to text.
- Offit, P.A., Thimerosal and Vaccines — A Cautionary Tale, New England Journal of Medicine 357 :1278–1279, 27 Sep 2007 | doi:10.1056/NEJMp078187. Return to text.
- Thimerosal in Vaccines, FDA: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/ucm096228#t1, 18 Jun 2014. Return to text.
- Description of how diphtheria and tetanus toxoids are prepared, fda.gov/downloads/BiologicsBloodVaccines/Vaccines/ApprovedProducts/UCM142732.pdf Return to text.
- Do vaccines contain formaldehyde? Vaccine Information Center, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, vec.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-safety/vaccine-ingredients/formaldehyde.html, Apr 2013. Return to text.
- The Toxin Gambit Part 1: Formaldehyde, Just the Vax Blog, justthevax.blogspot.com.au/2009/05/toxin-gambit-part-1-formaldehyde.html, 11 May 2009. Return to text.
- Report on Carcinogens, Thirteenth Edition: Formaldehyde, National Toxicology Program, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Return to text.
- Formaldehyde, International Programme on Chemical Safety, World Health Orgnization, inchem.org/documents/ehc/ehc/ehc89.htm#SubSectionNumber:5.1.4 1989. Return to text.
- What about people who get a seasonal flu vaccine and still get sick with flu-like symptoms? in: Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines, cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm. Return to text.
- Haelle, T., The truth about the flu shot: It may not always prevent illness, but it will reduce risk of death: Why get a flu vaccination that doesn’t always prevent the flu? A lot of reasons, as it turns out, nbcnews.com, 7 Mar 2018. Return to text.
- New CDC study shows flu vaccine reduces severe outcomes in hospitalized patients, cdc.gov, 25 May 2017. Return to text.
- Sathyanarayana Rao, T.E., Andrade, C., The MMR vaccine and autism: Sensation, refutation, retraction, and fraud, Indian J Psychiatry 53 (2):95–96, April–June 2011 | doi:10.4103/0019-5545.82529. Return to text.
- Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 14 May 2004; iom.edu/Reports/2004/Immunization-Safety-Review-Vaccines-and-Autism.aspx Return to text.
- Taylor, L.E., Swerdfeger, A.L., and Eslick, G.D., Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies, Vaccine 32 :3623–3629, 2014 | doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.04.085. Return to text.
- autismspeaks.org/what-autism/faq, accessed 21 Mar 2018. Return to text.
- Godlee, F., Smith, J., Marcovitch, H., ‘Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent’, British Medical Journal 342 :c7452, 2011 | doi:10.1136/bmj.c7452. Return to text.
- DeStefano, F. and Shimabukuro, T.T., The MMR Vaccine and Autism, Annual Review of Virology 6 :585-600, Sep 2019 | doi:10.1146/annurev-virology-092818-015515. Return to text.
- Andrew B., comment on Jonathan Sarfati, Ebola disease: the result of the Fall, creation.com/ebola-fall, 25 Oct 2014. Return to text.
- Salmon, D.A., Health consequences of religious and philosophical exemptions from immunization laws: individual and societal risk of measles, Journal of the American Medical Association 282(1):47–53, 7 Jul 1999. The base-rate fallacy has come up more recently with claims that Israel is showing that C19 vaccination doesn’t work. In reality, applying the proper base rate shows that it does. Epidemiologist Dr Katrine Wallace explains the base-rate fallacy in COVID-19 vaccines work—misreading the data can make you think otherwise, thehill.com, 27 Aug 2021. For Simpson’s paradox, see how Morris, J., Israeli data: How can efficacy vs. severe disease be strong when 60% of hospitalized are vaccinated? covid-datascience.com, 17 Aug 2021, or the one-minute video, Tan, M., Simpson’s Paradox in Vaccination data, youtube.com, 21 Aug 2021. Return to text.
- Too many vaccines? What you should know. Children’s Hospital of Philadephia, Volume 4, Winter 2018; media.chop.edu. Return to text.
- Loughlin, A.M. et al., Causality assessment of adverse events reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), Vaccine 30 (50):7253–9, 26 Nov 2012 | doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.09.074. Return to text.
- McGrath, K., Vaccine injury stories: the sacred cows of the Internet? voicesforvaccines.org. Return to text.
- Kluger, J., Here’s how the anti-vaxxers’ strongest argument falls apart, Time, 19 Aug 2015; time.com. Return to text.
- Wadman, M., Vaccines on trial: U.S. court separates fact from fiction, sciencemag.org, 27 Apr 2017 | doi:10.1126/science.aal1109. Return to text.
- See also Bergman, J., Did God make pathogenic viruses? J. Creation 13 (1):115–125, 1999; creation.com/viruses. Return to text.
- ‘The Vaccine Mom’, Descendants of human fetal cells in the making of vaccines, thevaccinemom.com, 7 Feb 2015. The author is Taryn (Harvey-)Chapman, a medical molecular biologist who works as the immunologist for a team of biomedical engineers focusing on creating new vaccine technology. She started ‘The Vaccine Mom’ after her own children were born, and of course then vaccinated, so she could communicate up-to-date vaccine research in a way that most concerned parents can understand. Return to text.
- Economists use the term ‘moral hazard’ when a particular policy provides an incentive for wrong or counter-productive behaviour. For example, if welfare policies mean that a woman is better off financially being a single mother than marrying the working father of her child, then they will incentivize single motherhood and discourage the biblical ideal of a family with a married mother and father. Economists Thomas Sowell (1930–) and Walter Williams (1936–), themselves ‘African-American’, argue that such policies have done what slavery, overt racism, Jim Crow laws, and segregation could not: destroy the black family in America. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Vaccines and abortion? creation.com/abortion-vaccine, 24 Mar 2012. Return to text.
- Swain, F., Is it right to use Nazi research if it can save lives? bbc.com, 23 July 2019. Return to text.
- Jay Wile makes a similar argument in his article Vaccines DO NOT Contain Fetal Tissue, drwile.com/lnkpages/render.asp?vac_abortion, 2009, which independently came to the same conclusions as mine. Return to text.
- Grabenstein, J.D., Moral considerations with certain viral vaccines, Christianity and Pharmacy 2 (2):3–6, 1999; immunizationinfo.org/files/nnii/files/Moral_Considerations_With_Certain_Viral_Vaccines.pdf. Return to text.
- Note in original: “This is particularly true in the case of vaccination against German measles, because of the danger of Congenital Rubella Syndrome. This could occur, causing grave congenital malformations in the foetus, when a pregnant woman enters into contact, even if it is brief, with children who have not been immunized and are carriers of the virus. In this case, the parents who did not accept the vaccination of their own children become responsible for the malformations in question, and for the subsequent abortion of foetuses, when they have been discovered to be malformed.” Return to text.
- Moral reflections on vaccines prepared from cells derived from aborted human foetuses, Pontifical Academy for Life, for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, 9 Jun 2005; immunize.org/concerns/vaticandocument.htm; italics in original. Return to text.
- Carter, J. and Smith, J., Explainer: Vaccines and aborted human fetal tissue, erlc.com, 5 Feb 2015. Return to text.
- Abbamonte, J., Which COVID-19 vaccines are being developed with fetal cell linesderived from aborted babies? Moral guidance on using COVID-19 vaccines developed with human fetal cell lines, Population Research Institute, pop.org, 4 Jun 2020. The PRI is a pro-life group devoted to exposing the myth of overpopulation. See also Prentice, D., Update: COVID-19 Vaccine Candidates and Abortion-Derived Cell Lines, Charlotte Lozier Institute, lozierinstitute.org/, Updated 2 Jun 2021. Return to text.
- CSL to manufacture and supply University of Queensland and Oxford University vaccine candidates for Australia, csl.com, 6 Sep 2020. Return to text.
- Catholic priest Matthew Schneider LC has analyzed these isssues in articles in Through Catholic Lenses, patheos.com: Schneider, M.P., If any drug tested on HEK-293 is immoral, then goodbye modern medicine, 28 Jan 2021; 12 things less-remote cooperation in evil than Covid vaccines, 18 Dec 2020. Return to text.
- Austriaco, N.P.G., Moral guidance on using COVID-19 vaccines developed with human fetal cell lines, thepublicdiscourse.com, 26 May 2020. Return to text.
- WHO, Draft landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines, who.int, accessed 3 Sep 2020. Return to text.
- WHO, Fisher, A.; cited in: McCulloch, D., Religious leaders sound vaccine warning, youngwitness.com.au, 25 Aug 2020. Return to text.
- McGovern, K., Catholic ethics and the problem of an ethically compromised COVID-19 vaccine, abc.net.au, 25 Aug 2020. Return to text.
- Luis F. Card. Ladaria, S.I. (Prefect) and S.E. Mons. Giacomo Morandi (Titular Archbishop of Cerveteri, Secretary, Note on the morality of using some anti–Covid-19 vaccines, Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Rome, 20 Dec 2020; vatican.va; emphasis in original. This is official Catholic policy, because Pope Francis examined this note on 17 Dec 2020 and ordered its publication. Return to text.
- Bosch, F.X. and 4 others, The causal relation between human papillomavirus and cervical cancer, J. clinical Pathology 55 (4):244–265, Apr 2002 | doi:10.1136/jcp.55.4.244. Return to text.
- Lei, J. and 8 others, HPV vaccination and the risk of invasive cervical cancer, New England J. Medicine 383(14):1340–1348, 1 Oct 2020 | doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1917338. Return to text.
- National Cancer Institute, Large study confirms that HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer, cancer.gov, 14 Oct 2020. Return to text.
- Lawson, J.S., Glenn, W.K. Evidence for a causal role by human papillomaviruses in prostate cancer—a systematic review, Infectious Agents and Cancer : 15: Article 41, 14 Jul 2020. Return to text.
- HPV Vaccines, WebMD.com, accessed 31 July 2020. Return to text.
- Gorvett, Z., Why you really don’t want to catch Covid-19, bbc.com, 23 Nov 2020. Return to text.
- Questioning whether to get your child the HPV vaccine? Read this, shotofprevention.com, 21 Jan 2016. Return to text.
- Christian Ph.D. geneticist Dr Kristen Panthagani, who is in her last year of training as a medical doctor, has a helpful blog on Covid questions, youcanknowthings.com/covid-vaccine-faqs/. This includes articles linked as, “Can we use ivermectin instead?” (24 Jul 2021) and “Can we use hydroxychloroquine instead?” (31 Jul 2021). Return to text.
- Derwand, R. Scholz, M., and Zelenko, V., COVID-19 outpatients: early risk-stratified treatment with zinc plus low-dose hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin: a retrospective case series study, International J. Antimicrobial Agents 56(6):106214, Dec 2020 | doi:j.ijantimicag.2020.106214. Return to text.
- Anti-Vax vs. Pro-Vax, Dr Zev Zelenko and Dr Jonathan Sarfati discuss, Just the Truth with constitutional law expert Jenna Ellis, americasvoice.news/playlists/just-the-truth, recorded 29 Jul 2021, aired 2 Aug 2021. Return to text.
- Aref, Z.F. and 6 others, Clinical, biochemical and molecular evaluations of ivermectin mucoadhesive nanosuspension nasal spray in reducing upper respiratory symptoms of mild COVID-19, Dovepress 2021:4063–4072, 15 Jun 2021 | doi:10.2147/IJN.S313093. Return to text.
- Lawrie, T.A., Ivermectin reduces the risk of death from COVID-19 -a rapid review and meta-analysis in support of the recommendation of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, Technical Report, ResearchGate, Jan 2021. Return to text.
- Toy, S., Ivermectin didn’t reduce Covid-19 hospitalizations in largest trial to date: Patients who got the antiparasitic drug didn’t fare better than those who received a placebo, wsj.com, 18 Mar 2022. Return to text.
- Bitterman, A. and 3 others, Comparison of trials using Ivermectin for COVID-19 between regions with high and low prevalence of Strongyloidiasis: A meta-analysis, JAMA Netw Open. 5(3):e223079, 21 Mar 2022 | doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.3079. Return to text.
- Sterne, J.A.C. et al., Association between administration of systemic corticosteroids and mortality among critically ill patients with COVID-19: A Meta-analysis, JAMA 324(13):1330–1341, 6 Oct 2020 | doi:10.1001/jama.2020.17023. Return to text.
- Prescott, H.C. and Rice, T.W., Corticosteroids in COVID-19 ARDS: Evidence and hope during the pandemic, JAMA 324(13):1292–1295, 6 Oct 2020 | doi:10.1001/jama.2020.16747. Return to text.
- Reis, G. et al., Effect of early treatment with fluvoxamine on risk of emergency care and hospitalisation among patients with COVID-19: the TOGETHER randomised, platform clinical trial, Lancet, 27 Oct 2021 | doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(21)00448-4. Return to text.
- Molnupiravir: The Game-Changing Antiviral Pill for COVID-19?, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 18 Oct 2021; publichealth.jhu.edu. Return to text.
- Pfizer’s oral antiviral therapy reduces mortality risk in Covid-19 trial, clinicaltrialsarena.com, 5 Nov 2021. Return to text.
- Nelson, P.N. and 5 others, Demystified … Monoclonal antibodies, Molecular Pathology 53(3):111–117, Jun 2000 | doi:10.1136/mp.53.3.111. Return to text.