Vanden Bossche's concerns center around the notion that a combination of lockdowns and extreme selection pressure on the virus, induced by the intense global mass vaccination program, might diminish the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the short-term, but will ultimately induce the emergence of more dangerous variants.
"I am not against vaccination. On the contrary, I can assure you that each of the current vaccines has been designed, developed and manufactured by brilliant and competent scientists," wrote Dr. Vanden Bossche, a seasoned vaccine developer who coordinated the Ebola vaccine program at the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).
"However, this type of prophylactic vaccines is completely inappropriate, and even highly dangerous, when used in mass vaccination campaigns during a viral pandemic,"
A prophylactic or preventative vaccine involves introducing antigens into a person's body. The goal is that the individual's immune system will create antibodies for those antigens, and become immune to the associated illness.
Vanden Bossche believes that the ongoing mass vaccination drives are "likely to further enhance adaptive immune escape as none of the current vaccines will prevent replication or transmission of viral variants."
Immune escape is a term used to describe when the host, in this case humans, is no longer able to recognize and counter a pathogen such as a relevant variant or mutant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.
"The more we use these vaccines for immunizing people in the midst of a pandemic, the more infectious the virus will become," Vanden Bossche wrote. "With increasing infectiousness comes an increased likelihood of viral resistance to the vaccines." (Related: Biden plans to expand coronavirus vaccine injections nationwide using FEMA and the National Guard.)
Under this scenario, manufacturers will be forced to refine or improve the vaccines, which will then increase the selection pressure.
Selection pressure is a term used to describe the process that helps an organism or pathogen to evolve in ways that make it better adapted to its changing environment. An antibiotic resistance, which is caused by overuse of antibiotic drugs, is a good example of selection pressure.
The virus will effectively outsmart the highly specific antigen-based vaccines that are being used and tweaked.
Vanden Bossche said the multiple emerging, "much more infectious" viral variants are already examples of immune escape from our innate immunity, and most-likely created by the government interventions themselves – lockdowns and mask mandates.
Our innate immune system, which often called the first line of immune defense, protects us from a multitude of pathogens, thereby preventing these pathogens from causing disease.
As the innate immune system cannot remember the pathogens it encountered – innate immunity has no so-called "immunological memory" – we can only continue to rely on it provided we keep it "trained" well enough.
"By keeping the innate immune system trained, we can much more easily resist germs which have real pathogenic potential. It has, for example, been reported and scientifically proven that exposure to other, quite harmless coronaviruses causing a 'common cold' can provide protection, although short-lived, against Covid-19 and its loyal henchmen (i.e., the more infectious variants)," wrote Dr. Vanden Bossche.
Training is achieved by regular exposure to a myriad of environmental agents, including pathogens. Thus, lockdowns and mask mandates are possibly stunting the training of our innate immune system.
Vanden Bossche noted that suppression of innate immunity, especially in the younger age groups, can become very problematic. "There can be no doubt that lack of exposure due to stringent containment measures implemented as of the beginning of the pandemic has not been beneficial to keeping people's innate immune system well trained," he wrote.
An article published by the website McGill discredited the scientific evidence presented by Vanden Bossche in his open letter.
The article stated that in the letter, Dr. Vanden Bossche "makes a number of incorrect or exaggerated claims about the use of mass vaccination during a pandemic."
The writer of the article reached out to Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician who specialized in vaccines and immunology and the co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, to get his thoughts on whether antibiotic resistance and vaccine-associated immune escape are indeed comparable.
"In a sense it is, but he misses the main point," Dr. Offit said. "If you have a vaccine that results in high levels of neutralizing antibodies, that's not a way to create variants."
A vaccine shows your body an inert part of the virus so that it can make neutralizing antibodies against it. If the body ends up making low levels of these antibodies, this could allow the virus to stick around in your body and make copies of itself. Some of these copies may by chance have the right kinds of errors in their genetic code to become variants of concern, although the mutation rate of the coronavirus is quite low.
The article also asserted that data from the vaccine clinical trials and from countries that have vaccinated a large percentage of their population showed a significant reduction in cases and mortality.
"Another important counterpoint to Dr. Vanden Bossche's claim is that we can simply reformulate our vaccines to match new variants of concern," the article stated.
The article continued: "There is a reason why a new flu vaccine is made each year: The influenza virus drifts and shifts and the vaccine needs to be reformulated to be a better match for the specific viruses that are predicted to be common during the next flu season. Similarly, if a new SARS-CoV-2 variant emerges and is so different that our current vaccines don't match it, scientists can simply tweak their vaccines."
But Vanden Bossche has expected this kind of argument from non-experts and rebuffed them. "My statements are based on nothing else but science. They shall only be contradicted by science," he wrote in his open letter.
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