If you’re like me, you’ve taken a look through the list of ingredients in vaccines and wondered what purpose certain substances like mineral oil, bovine serum albumin and aluminum hydroxide could possibly play in priming the immune system to fight off diseases. FAQ’s from the CDC about vaccine safety say that these substances are adjuvants and are put in vaccines “to enhance the immune response of vaccinated individuals”. However, if you dig around in immunology literature, you’ll find a few more interesting details about adjuvants.
Let’s start with immunologist Charles Janeway. Janeway did a significant amount of research into what he called “the immunologist’s dirty little secret”– that the presence of foreign antigens alone are often not enough to elicit a response from the immune system. In fact, it has been well known amongst immunologists for a long time that the presence of bacteria and viruses is often not enough to induce a response from the immune system. This is why scientists routinely add substances like mineral oil, bovine serum albumin and mineral salts like aluminum hydroxide to their experiments to get a reaction from the immune system. So why do we care about scientists adding mineral oil to their petri dishes. Well, it gets a little more interesting…
You see, Janeway first started considering the “immunologist’s dirty little secret” because of adjuvants in vaccines. The self/non-self theory of the immune system would seem to mean that introducing the bacteria and viruses in a vaccine should be enough to get a reaction from the immune system. But it wasn’t, and that is why vaccines contain adjuvants- so that the vaccine will actually induce an immune response. This led Janeway to hypothesize that there were activator cells that had to be “turned on” to produce a reaction from the immune system.
So while we’ve been told that vaccines work by imitating an infection which then leaves the body with T- and B-lymphoctes which tell it how to fight the infection in the future, it’s not the bacteria or viruses that are causing the immune reaction, it’s the adjuvants. This opens up the door to a number of issues. For example,
- If it’s the adjuvants the body is actually fighting, couldn’t that give credence to the idea that vaccines frequently cause autoimmune reactions?
- If the bacteria and the viruses aren’t enough to induce an immune response in a vaccine, are they really as lethal in a normally healthy individual as we have been led to believe?
And in fact, adjuvants are responsible for many of the reactions to vaccines. Table 5 from Edelman’s section on adjuvants in Vaccine Adjuvants: Preparation Methods and Research Protocols details the “Real and Theoretical Risks of Vaccine Adjuvants” which include:
- Local or acute chronic inflammation with formation of painful abcesses, persistent nodules or draining lymphadenopathy (enlargement of the lymph nodes typically associated with cancer or infection).
- Flu-like illness with fever
- Anaphylaxis (a whole body allergic reaction)
- Chemical toxicity to tissues or organs
- autoimmune arthritis, amyloidosis, (a condition in which abnormal protein buildup is deposited in an organ of the body) anterior uveitis (inflammation of the eye which can ultimately cause blindness).
- Cross reactions with human tissue antigens causing glomurelonephritis (inflammation of the filters in the kidneys) or meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brian and meninges that can result in speech and motor impairment, epilepsy and intellectual deficits; ironically, vaccination is often recommended as a way to prevent encephalitis and meningoencephalitis.)
- Immune suppression (Aren’t vaccines supposed to enhance, the immune system, not compromise it? If they’re suppressing the immune system, then what’s the point?)
- Carcinogenesis (See my post on cancer and vaccines.)
- Teratogenesis (causes birth defects) or abortogenesis (causes abortion or miscarriage- like several pregnant women have reported with the flu shot…)
- Spread of a live vectored vaccine to the environment (sounds a lot like shedding!)
Edelman doesn’t care to explicitly state which of these risks are “real” and which are “theoretical”. But every time you get a vaccine, you can take comfort in knowing that your body is mounting a defense… against chemicals, mineral oil and mineral salts.