There follows a guest post by Daily Sceptic reader ‘Amanuensis’, as he’s known in the comments section. The author is an ex-academic and senior Government researcher/scientist with experience in the field. In this post, he asks whether there’s such a thing as too many vaccinations. Issues covered include: what constitutes the ‘right level’ of immune response; the effect of vaccinating someone multiple times in a short period; and why those who’ve received two doses of the Covid vaccines aren’t protected against infection.
About 10 days ago I caught Covid.
I was a bit surprised because I’ve already had it – I caught it back in December 2019. (Before anyone yells ‘that’s before Covid came!’, I caught it at a hotel frequented by Air China pilots and cabin-crew and I also note that there was a strange peak in ambulance call-outs for cardiac/respiratory arrest back in Nov/Dec ‘19, as discussed here.) This time I caught it because I had to pop into the office, which is mainly frequented by the double jabbed. And as we all know, the double-jabbed are suffering from negative vaccine efficiency and are thus more likely to catch Covid than anyone else (somewhere between –50%, –100% or even –150%). The only people who don’t seem to know this are politicians…
Anyway, I was rather cross about catching Covid, because it does lead to some inconveniences, including: being locked away in my home-office for several days with only occasional supplies of broth and warm milk from my wife (thanks!), and only being allowed out for daily exercise (I took two days off because I felt ever so slightly rough). Well, one day I decided to drive to Barnard Castle to check my eyesight, but that’s a different story.
Being locked away gives you time to think, so between buying Christmas presents for my children (Covid is bad for your wealth) and trying to keep those callers from BT/Microsoft on the phone for as long as possible, I drifted off to thinking about childhood illnesses and all the vaccinations we take in our youth. (Wasting cold callers’ time is a great game, and every minute that you spend stops them making one phone call to someone vulnerable, who might end up being scammed.)
When I was about 13, I recall standing in a line as one-by-one we were attacked by a nurse with a strange clicking device, the Heaf test, the purpose of which was to drive several needles covered in tuberculin purified protein derivative into your upper arm to test for prior exposure to TB. Those that had a negative reaction would go on to have inoculation with BCG, while those that had a positive reaction would be pulled to one side and mocked by their classmates as being contaminated with the mysterious TB. Beyond the psychological damage from the mocking, it is important to note that those with a positive reaction wouldn’t be given their BCG inoculation because it would have no clinical benefit and would introduce a real risk of rather unpleasant side effects.
The question is, why was this caution necessary? Throughout our lives we get exposed and re-exposed to pathogens all the time and the purpose of vaccination is to give our immune system the signals of an infection without the risks of the disease; it certainly wouldn’t be advantageous if the immune system gave a risk of unpleasant side effects every time it was re-exposed to a pathogen for which it had already built up protective immunity.
It is important to note that the immune system doesn’t simply stop infection on re-exposure to any pathogen, but offers sufficient protection to halt and then clear any infection before the pathogen has a chance to reproduce to the point where it can cause disease – this is generally indistinguishable from ‘stops infection’, but it is an important nuance. For example, there is evidence that continuous exposure to pathogens to which we already have immunity substantially reduces our risks of some diseases (e.g., shingles).
Of course, it is important that the immune system builds up the right response to any pathogen: too low and there’s a risk of disease; too high and there is a risk of complications resulting from an aggressive immune response, usually considered to be via autoimmune mechanisms (i.e., the immune system attacks the body as well as the pathogen).
In general we don’t worry about this – nearly all vaccines are developed so that the immune response at the end of the course is at the right level for the body to fight off disease with few complications. These ‘right levels’ are identified through the usual sets of clinical trials, usually with limited use post-approval so that pharmacovigilance studies can identify any rare risks that might exist or any issues that might emerge over a longer timescale. Sometimes this requires a single dose (as with the BCG vaccine); for others there is a course of several vaccinations to get to the ‘right level’ (e.g., childhood MMR).
The question, then, is ‘what does happen if you vaccinate too often?’ Most of the time this isn’t regarded as a problem – vaccines are given on medical advice (even those given for travel etc.) and it is very unusual to vaccinate beyond the level determined to be useful by extensive clinical trials. Beyond that, the immune system is used to reinfection and it stages an appropriate response without significant deleterious effects.
But there are exceptions. One is the tetanus vaccine; this is given as part of the childhood vaccinations (DTaP), and three doses of vaccine are required to give long lived immunity to tetanus. Boosters are generally given at around 10 year intervals, but it is well known that giving such boosters too frequently introduces too high an immune response, leading to significant risks of rather unpleasant side-effects and low but not insignificant risks of more serious side effects (e.g., here or here).
On the other hand, we are used to the influenza vaccine being given at annual intervals – the evidence suggests that protective antibodies wane in the period after each booster and that each booster brings the antibody level back up to nearly the same protective level. Thus the annual booster doesn’t result in an overstimulation of the immune system, and side effects are rare. That said, the influenza vaccine does have its problems, including reduced efficiency beyond the first application and increased antibody waning with successive boosters. Nevertheless, the influenza vaccine does serve an important protective function for those who are vulnerable to influenza.
So, what about the Covid vaccines?
Well, we don’t know for sure because no-one has done the research, but we do have some indications. Problems with vaccine hyperimmunisation appear to be linked with very high antibody titres before the (re-)vaccination. Indications from studies undertaken on Covid vaccinees suggest that two doses of vaccine brings antibody levels to around two to three times that seen after natural infection alone.
That these antibody levels are similar to those seen after natural infection should give some comfort that the levels are not so high as to introduce risks – although it should be noted that the mix of antibodies is different (only to the spike protein rather than to the whole virus) and the response is heavily biased towards IgG antibodies that protect against systemic infection, rather than the IgA antibodies that protect against upper respiratory tract infections. Note that natural infection also trains the innate immune system and creates a cellular immune response – vaccination appears to provide only minimal stimulation to these aspects of the immune system.
And the boosters? Well, they’re not boosting protective antibody levels back up, as seen for boosters generally used – the vaccine induced antibody levels are declining, but not by a relevant amount even at six months post vaccination, let alone three months. What appears to have happened is that Covid has evolved vaccine escape, probably due to the enormous selective pressure created by mass vaccination, and this has resulted in the vaccine induced antibodies becoming only weakly binding to the Omicron variant.
It is important to note that the antibodies haven’t waned – they’re still there, only they’re now less effective at neutralising Omicron. The right response might be to create a new vaccine that targets the new variant’s proteins, although the risk of original antigenic sin will remain. (Oh, and they should restrict vaccination only to those who are vulnerable, to reduce the risk of vaccine escape happening again.)
However, the chosen approach appears to be to give everyone another dose of the same vaccine. The body responds to this as you might expect – it is seeing a regular challenge by a ‘new disease’ (the vaccine) and it keeps on upping the antibody level to cope – by an additional 40 fold for the third dose of vaccine compared with the second dose (i.e., approaching 100 fold the levels seen after natural infection).
If the body was really being repeatedly infected by a deadly disease then these antibody levels might be appropriate (or, the body might decide that the benefits outweigh the risks). However, the triple jabbed now have a very high immune response to a virus that no longer exists (Wuhan strain) and which is targeted at the wrong place (blood borne infection rather than in the upper respiratory tract).
For now, the booster appears to offer a significant level of protection against infection. Time will tell whether this is limited to a short term boost in IgA antibodies in the upper respiratory tract (about 50 days duration), whether there’s meaningful longer term protection against serious symptomatic disease, whether there will be any enhanced risk of infection (as we appear to now see for the double jabbed) and whether there will be any longer term negative implications of this excessive immune response.
Finally, there’s one thing that we do know – the immune response to natural infection appears to give a long-lasting protection that is over 10 times more effective than vaccine immunity. Studies that have investigated antibody levels in those vaccinated after natural infection show a significant increase in antibody titres without any apparent decrease in disease risk. Given the risks of post-vaccination autoimmune response in those with antibody levels far in excess of those required for protection from disease, it would seem foolhardy to insist on the vaccination of those who already have natural immunity. That the vaccine-induced immunity is for a viral protein that no longer exists in the wild is the icing on the Covid cake.