Intended for healthcare professionals


Vaccine programmes must consider their effect on general resistance

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 14 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3769

Re: Vaccine programmes must consider their effect on general resistance

The research by Peter Aaby and his colleagues, studying non-specific vaccine effects over the years is remarkable, particularly in respect to overbearing political pressures.

Andrew Parker writes in an editorial that "one of the main obstacles to open discussion of these non-specific vaccine effects, and independent investigation of the issue, is that an adequate account of the positive impact of vaccines has not been included and, as a result, the phenomenon is perceived as a threat to the life-saving global immunisation vision and strategy with the result that the topic has been largely avoided by funders and investigators."

But the possible result of actively neglecting non-specific vaccine effects, is that through vaccinations and the avoidance of acute communicable diseases, this has contributed to a serious increase in chronic non-communicable diseases.

Peter Aaby's type of work should be standard when new vaccines are introduced. But due to willful ignorance of long term non-specific effects, a comparison can be made with the financial sector where numbers and targets are chased and no interest is taken in the lasting effects. However, precisely the lasting effects of vaccines should be the focus of the WHO and Public Health.

Research is desperately needed and not only into immunostimulation that could affect the response to other infections.

The "allergic march" is obvious: food allergies, asthma, eczema and hayfever have increased to endemic levels. The ISAAC studies have established this for the countries with the greatest number of immunisations. However, there is little to no discussion of the possible effects of vaccinations in ISAAC papers and the focus is skewed to the hygiene hypothesis.

The burden of chronic (non-communicable) diseases has increased significantly, for example, prescriptions in US children increased for asthma by14% over the period 2002 - 2010
The rate of severe reactions in young children with food allergies is higher than thought.

Allergy related chronic diseases can biologically be explained through a priming of the immune system in infancy to react in a Th2 fashion (producing antibodies) to the exclusion of Th1 (cellular immunity). In natural infections both Th1 and Th2 are stimulated and the Th1 reaction produces the rash to show for that.

I am not aware that the effect of vaccination on priming the immune system in the infant is consistently being investigated. But does the burden of chronic non-communicable diseases seems ultimately bigger because of vaccinations that prevent acute communicable (infectious) diseases? Could it be better to postpone vaccination until the immune system is more mature rather than to vaccinate in the first 6 months of life?

The human microbiome is an important factor in health and disease. But I am not aware of consistent research as to how vaccines affect the commensal flora by comparing commensal flora pre and post vaccination, although diet, environment, host genetics and early microbial exposure have all been implicated. The diversity of microbes of distinct types of organisms has been linked to several human diseases and variation might well be critical for understanding microbiome-based disorders.

The following article in Cell; "The impact of the gut microbiota on human health: an integrated view" gives a fascinating review of the impact of the micro-organisms that we carry in our gut on our health. It even carries a paragraph 'effects of antibiotics on the microbiota' however not a single mentioning of the effects of immunisations.

Moving on from physical illnesses, could vaccines have an effect on the development of personality? Inflammatory processes are associated with mental illness. For example depression is associated with a sensitization of immuno-inflammatory pathways. And for example in the US prescriptions for children increased 46% for ADHD from 2002 through 2010.
Microbes have an effect on the brain

Frank Ryan has given a description in his book "Virolution" how human development is intimately related to viruses. Could it be that interfering with that relationship cause (pervasive) developmental delays?
In his book "Metamorphosis" he also suggests that the human pubertal phase can be seen as a metamorphosing process. It would be depressing to think that due to blocking natural infections, the maturation of the personality is interfered with.

And, for example, in the adult, through narratives it has been documented that going through an infectious illness, can bring positive life changes. For example it is fascinating to read how Arthur Conan Doyle had a life changing insight when going through a flu like illness.

Therefore research is not only needed with reference to physical health but also with reference to mental health. Most of all what has been missing is research into the long term ('chronic') beneficial effects of infectious diseases on both physical and mental health.

Andrew Parker's remark is an admission of willful neglect by the WHO and national public health departments. Putting it in perspective: it makes misconduct by pharmaceutical industry insignificant in comparison because the organised misconduct of systematically avoiding research and discussion of non-specific side effects of vaccines affects humanity as a whole. Editors of journals will hopefully stop colluding and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will hopefully incorporate proper research into possible lifelong physical and mental health effects of vaccination.

Over the past decade I have suggested research in the following areas:









Competing interests: No competing interests

10 July 2012
Wouter Havinga
GP locum