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Covid-19: UK starts social distancing after new model points to 260 000 potential deaths

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 17 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m1089

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Coronavirus vaccines: another "7-Step Recipe"?

Elizabeth Hart’s point about natural immunity is important, and it applies to influenza as well as coronaviruses. (BMJ rr 3/25/20) Annual flu shots have put us on a treadmill of narrow and short-term protection and subverted the broad and lasting immunity provided by wild virus infections in healthy people. Examples are accumulating of the harms done by influenza vaccines. (Cunningham, Now we have a study suggesting that they might increase mortality in the elderly. (Anderson, Ann Intern Med 3/3/20) The title and abstract are bland and innocuous, but Table 2 indicates that vaccines increase mortality from influenza and pneumonia by 17%. (vaccine effectiveness: minus 17.3 %, CI minus 40.7% to 6%) Furthermore, they increase the risk of illness from noninfluenza viruses, including coronaviruses. (Cowling, Clin Infect Dis 2012;54:1778. Wolff, Vaccine 2020;38:350)

Some vaccine experts worry that safe and effective coronavirus vaccines may not be possible, citing animal studies demonstrating “antibody-dependent enhancement” (ADE) of natural infection and the production of pulmonary immunopathology. (Jiang, “Don’t rush to deploy Covid-19 vaccines…” Nature 3/16/20. Takano, J Vet Med Sci 2019;8:911. Tseng, PLoS One 2012;7(4):e35421. Kam, Vaccine 2007;25:729)

The ominous forecasts about Covid-19 remind me of the “Seven-Step Recipe” for increasing demand for flu shots concocted by the CDC in 2004: “…statements of alarm by public health authorities…prediction of dire outcomes from influenza…continued reports that influenza is causing severe illness affecting lots of people…repeated urging of influenza vaccination…” (Doshi, BMJ 2005;331:1419) Sound familiar?

Purely natural immunity from measles brings with it substantial morbidity and mortality, and the imperfect herd immunity provided by the vaccine is a small price to pay to prevent them. Influenza and coronaviruses are a different matter. I am frightened and suspicious about the public decisions currently being made about Covid-19, and I am not alone.

Competing interests: No competing interests

26 March 2020
Allan S. Cunningham
Retired pediatrician
Cooperstown NY 13326, USA <>