Herd Immunity

The Implausibility of Vaccine-Based Herd Immunity

The phrase "herd immunity" is tossed a lot these days. I've often seen it used as ammunition against parents who choose not to vaccinate, with something along the lines of, "the only reason your unvaccinated child is so healthy is because those of us who vaccinate are keeping disease rates down". Is this really true? I decided to dig deeper to find out.

Natural Herd Immunity vs Vaccine Herd Immunity

Herd immunity requires the assurance that a large percentage of the ‘herd’ (population) is immune and therefore unable to pass on disease. The theory is based on natural immunity, which provides lifelong or long term immunity. [1] Whether vaccination can be substituted for natural immunity when considering herd immunity, is an entirely different question.

Just how effective a vaccine is at providing immunity isn't easy to gauge. Vaccination provides essentially a half-hearted immune response to infection. It may often provide a strong antibody reaction, but unfortunately provides a very poor innate immune response. [2] Despite this, traditionally vaccine effectiveness has been based on measuring antibody levels produced by the body in response to the vaccine, and the fact that vaccines illicit a poor innate immune response has largely been ignored.

However, recent research has put the traditional theory that antibodies are required for immunity into question. It is now known that antibody levels cannot accurately predict immunity. A person can have high levels of antibodies but still become infected, and conversely a person can have low levels of antibodies but not become infected. In fact, in 2012 Moseman et al revealed that antibodies were not even required to gain immunity and that antibodies elicited by vaccines could not by themselves provide adequate immunity. [3]

Pollard et al (2009) noted that children vaccinated with the Hib conjugate vaccine still suffered from Hib disease despite the presence of B-cell immunological memory:
"These children mount a memory immune response to infection but still suffer from Hib disease, which supports our view that the presence of immunological memory does not guarantee protection. These observations strongly suggest that B-cell memory (the kind of immune memory induced via vaccination) might not be as important as longlasting antibodies (T-cell memory cells induced via natural infection) for long-term protection against a rapidly invasive pathogen." [3a]
The immune system as a whole needs to work together, as it does in response to natural infection; something vaccines have unfortunately been unable to achieve.

Despite this, vaccine manufacturers continue to use antibody testing to rate their products effectiveness. As inadequate as antibody-based immunity conferred by vaccines is, it is further subject to rapid decline soon after vaccine administration, in some cases even after numerous boosters.

In 2012 Klein et al studied the waning effect of the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine and discovered:
 “The risk of pertussis increased by 42% each year after the fifth DTaP dose.” [4] 
In stark contrast, in 2009 Wearing et al determined that , on average, whooping cough immunity lasts at least 30 years and perhaps as long as 70 years after natural infection. [5]

It's no surprise then that vaccines are often demonstrated to be ineffective in real world situations. For example numerous outbreaks of measles, mumps, whooping cough, chicken pox, influenza, and polio have been documented in highly vaccination populations. [6-23, 24-27, 28-35, 36-40, 41-62, 63-64]

Asymptomatic infection after vaccination

The whooping cough vaccine in particular has been one of the most problematic in terms of effectiveness. In 2009 researchers Witt et al. examined whooping cough incidence in California:
"Our data suggests that the current schedule of acellular pertussis vaccine doses is insufficient to prevent outbreaks of pertussis." [65a]
Likewise, in 2013 researchers Sala-Farré et al. studied whooping cough incidence in Vallès with similar conclusions:
"Despite high levels of vaccination coverage, pertussis circulation cannot be controlled at all. The results question the efficacy of the present immunization programmes." [65b]
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control has admitted that unvaccinated people are not the cause of recent whooping cough incidence:
"Even though children who haven't received DTaP vaccines are at least 8 times more likely to get pertussis than children who received all 5 recommended doses of DTaP, they are not the driving force behind the large scale outbreaks or epidemics...We often see people blaming pertussis outbreaks on people coming to the US from other counties. This is not the case. Pertussis was never eliminated from the US like measles or polio, so there's always the chance for it to get into a community. Plus, every country vaccinates against pertussis." [65c]
Dr. Anne Schuchat, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases further explains the recent increase in whooping cough incidence:
“Better diagnosis and reporting of whooping cough may be contributing to the increased numbers, along with the fact that the disease tends to peak and wane in cycles. It does not appear that anti-vaccination sentiment among parents has contributed…” [65d]
The problem isn't just that the whooping cough vaccine admittedly doesn't work well - it gets more complicated. The current acellular whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine was shown by researchers Warfel et al. to create the illusion of immunity by exhibiting no symptoms in the vaccine recipient, when in fact the recipient was infected and spreading the infection to those around them - a phenomenon known as asymptomatic infection. [65]

Even though vaccine recipients had adequate levels of antibodies to be considered ‘immune’ by vaccine standards, it did not stop the infection persisting in the host or spreading it to others. [65] The researchers concluded:
"The observation that acellular pertussis, which induces an immune response mismatched to that induced by natural infection, fails to prevent colonization or transmission provides a plausible explanation for the resurgence of pertussis and suggests that optimal control of pertussis will require the development of improved vaccines." [65]
The risks associated with the acellular whooping cough vaccine, which has been in use since 1991 [68], have been known as early as 2000, yet no recall of the vaccine was made. [69] This is a major problem that should have been caught in preliminary trials, before the vaccine was licensed to begin with.

But wait, there's more

The whooping cough vaccine isn't alone. The measles vaccine shares similar problems.

Damien et al (1998) found that people who are traditionally considered immune to measles (have produced sufficient amounts of antibodies) can still harbour the measles virus without showing outward symptoms and theoretically spread it to others. This phenomenon is known as an asymptomatic secondary immune response. It applies to both those who have acquired immunity through natural infection or through vaccination, however those who are vaccinated are 5-8 times more susceptible to this response:
"Among measles vaccinated high school children, 22.2-33.2% respectively, were considered susceptible to secondary immune response (asymptomatic measles infection). A second vaccination did not seem to lower this incidence." [102]
After an investigation of a measles outbreak in a highly vaccination school population, Matson et al (1993) found that even after revaccination of school children who did not develop antibodies to their initial measles vaccination, susceptibility to measles infection still remained high (albeit without the appearance of a rash):
"Revaccination appeared to reduce the portion of all students with neutralization titers predicting susceptibility to measles illness with rash from 7.9% to 3.0% and left the portion predicted to be susceptible to illness without rash unchanged (45%)." [104]
Wu et al (1996) studied children exposed to measles in a primary school and found the rate of asymptomatic measles infection despite vaccination to be similar:
"The rate of subclinical infection of the three classes was between 18.5%-75.0%, with an average of 45.1%. " [104a]
Helfand et al (1998) examined the effects of a measles outbreak in a highly vaccinated school population and concluded:
"Mild or asymptomatic measles infections are probably very common among measles-immune persons exposed to measles cases and may be the most common manifestation of measles during outbreaks in highly immune populations." [104b]
Huiss et al (1997) studied a population of vaccinated adults and found evidence measles was able to circulate amongst them despite the absence of outward symptoms:
"In a secluded population of seropositive vaccinees, most experienced an increase in measles titre several years after vaccination. In the absence of clinically overt measles, this suggested that the virus circulated also in healthy vaccinated individuals who could potentially transmit disease to seronegative people." [105]
Stittelaar et al (2002) get straight to the point in their study, "Vaccination against measles: a neverending story":
"...the current vaccine protects against measles but not necessarily against MV infection."[105a]
Hudgens, et al (2004) reiterate the point in their study, "Endpoints in vaccine trials":
"...vaccines for rubella, mumps, measles, and polio have been shown to prevent disease, but not infection."[105b]
The World Health Organization also state:
"Many vaccines are primarily intended to prevent disease and do not necessarily protect against infection." [105c]
They go on to state that just two vaccines, the HPV and Hep A vaccine, possibly have the ability to prevent infection.

These results are not surprising given that vaccines that are injected, such as the MMR, do not stimulate mucosal immunity.[2] However the mucosa is precisely where the majority of infections reside.[106] So while vaccine recipients are usually protected from severe symptoms such as a rash or fever, many are still susceptible to infection, and will pass the infection on to those around them.[102]

Vaccine-Induced Infection

Other vaccines have also proven to be problematic. The chicken pox (varicella) and rotavirus vaccines have been documented numerous times causing infection in vaccine recipients and spreading the infection to others. The chicken pox vaccine has also been documented multiple times causing herpes zoster, a related virus with 3 times the morbidity and 5 times the mortality of varicella, in vaccine recipients. [69-93, 94-100]

The measles vaccine may also suffer from a similar problem to the chicken pox and rotavirus vaccines. Researchers Valsamakis et al (1999) studied how the vaccine-based measles virus changed over time when allowed to replicate for an extended period of time in human tissue. They discovered that it grew in strength, evolving back to a strength similar to that of the wild-type measles virus from which it was derived. The researchers warned that individuals with immune deficiency may suffer adverse outcomes if vaccinated, as they may be unable to clear the original, weakened, vaccine-based measles virus, allowing the virus to replicate for an extended period of time and grow to full strength. [101]

Rota et al (1995) found that the measles virus was shed in 14 of the 16 measles vaccine recipients tested:
"Measles virus RNA was detected in 10 of 12 children during the 2-week sampling period. In some cases, measles virus RNA was detected as early as 1 day or as late as 14 days after vaccination. Measles virus RNA was also detected in the urine samples from all four of the young adults between 1 and 13 days after vaccination." [103]

Bottom line

This evidence completely shatters any illusion that at least these particular vaccines can provide herd immunity. It implicates the current whooping cough, chicken pox, rotavirus, and possibly the mesasles vaccines as a cause of disease resurgence. The fact that antibodies alone have been shown unable to confer adequate immunity to pathogens calls into question the use of vaccination as a whole, as vaccine based immunity is primarily based on antibody production.

For these reasons, it is my opinion, that vaccination cannot in good conscience be used in the context of herd immunity. Until safer and more effective vaccines become available it seems a gamble to assume that vaccine recipients are truly immune.

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