The debate around anti-infective vaccinations and their possible side effects has been increasingly coming under the spotlight. In the last few weeks, the discussion on a possible damage from vaccination and the responsibilities of the government has filled Italian newspapers and TV news programs.
In response to a verdict released by an Apulian court, acknowledging a direct causal connection between vaccination and certain successive impairments (autism and diabetes), a coordinated media intervention was organized in every detail, definitely with the support of media sources, as all the news programs and all the newspapers repeated exactly the same concept.
Certainly, it is not my intention to enter into the merits of this topic, repeatedly debated on the pages of this blog. However, as already happened with the cases of the swine and the bird flu, when all communication sources are oriented in conveying the same exact message, I always start to worry.
When facing situations like these, there is a lack of that kind of variability in information sources and answers that science has taught me to recognize in biological phenomena. All this means that instead of discussing about a scientific matter you are probably discussing about politics or economics, and that is why my concern grows.
At the same time of this debate, the results of incredible investigations appeared on the press (for example, the one published by the Italian newspaper “L’Espresso”, supported by famous personalities, which described the economic interest linked to the “promotion” of bird flu, caused by the infamous H5N1 type of flu virus, for which millions of animals have been killed), a tangible sign showing how every topic related to vaccination has unknown facets, often not so transparent (as you would instead expect) for the sake of public health.
The amount of scientific evidence indicating the existence of certain vaccine-related risks is becoming truly remarkable, and the correct approach should be to acknowledge the existence of such a risk (every citizen has the right to be fully informed), while comparing it with the possible positive effects of vaccination.
Instead, we always witness what could be defined as a clash between two opposite worlds. On one side, the anti-vaccination fanatics, who would wish to remove all vaccines, considered to be “the devil” (as an immunologist, I can identify at least 3, that changed the history of human diseases); on the other side, healthcare facilities able to deny even the evidence to argue that vaccination-related damages do not exist (we are only referring to anti-infective vaccines, which have nothing to do with anti-allergic hyposensitizing therapies, chosen to treat, for example, asthma, rhinitis, and vernal conjunctivitis).
Despite all this, at DocSalus we keep fighting our battle for correct information and try to keep up to date on the most important news.
One is related to the definition of a new type of syndrome, called ASIA, which stands for Autoimmune Syndrome Induced by Adjuvants, that is, an autoimmune or an autoinflammatory syndrome caused by the presence of adjuvant in vaccines.
Adjuvants are molecules usually added into vaccines so that the substance, towards which antibodies production is aimed, becomes “bigger” in size, allowing a more active recognition by the immune system. In other words, thanks to such an expedient, it is as if the virus targeted by the vaccination is wearing “a flower in its buttonhole”, so that the immune cells are able to recognize it and trigger immunization immediately. Indeed, this is what immediately happens, but the immune system not only starts producing antibodies against the virus of interest, but also against the “adjuvant-flower” (which, in the case of the anti-hepatitis A vaccination, is a piece of the brewer’s yeast, aka Saccharomyces cerevisiae).
All this comes with a potential problem: the immune system may become too reactive, triggering certain disorders linked to autoimmunity or inflammatory conditions, mostly derived from an excessive reactivity against substances (such as yeast) present in the daily diet, not directly from a defensive reaction against the virus itself.
This is not a brand-new topic: at the time of the anti H1N1 swine-flu vaccination, a huge discussion generated around squalene (the adjuvant used in that vaccine), considered to be one of the possible elements able to induce a form of rheumatoid arthritis in some of the treated people.
The same squalene (basically a fatty acid, a lipid) has been debated by many authors as a possible cause for the increasing incidence of the antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APLS), an autoimmune condition, whose real cause is currently unknown (although many suspects lay around the production of antibodies against the adjuvant squalene).
Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld, an Israeli researcher working at the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases, Sheba Medical Center, suggested, in a series of articles published since 2009, that at least 4 autoimmune diseases such as silicosis, the macrophagic myofasciitis, the Gulf War syndrome and all the post-vaccination reactivity events could be attributable solely to a single type of syndrome (ASIA), since these all shared very close and precise clinical and pathogenic similarities.
In fact, at least eight out of ten of the symptoms shown by four different diseases were identical: muscle aches, arthritis, chronic fatigue, memory, gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders, skin manifestations, detection of autoantibodies, sleep disturbances, and sometimes an excessive sensitivity to chemical substances and odours (Shoenfeld Y et al, J Autoimmun. 2011; 36(1): 4-8).
ASIA syndrome was proposed in 2012 as the cause for the Gulf War syndrome by an Israeli researcher from the same research group, who published his research in the journal Lupus (Israeli E. Lupus. 2012 Feb;21(2):190-4. doi: 10.1177/0961203311429552).
The results of experimental tests run on mice have recently been published in the journal Current Medicinal Chemistry (Cruz-Tapias P et al, Curr Med Chem., 2013; 20(32): 4030-6), which confirmed this possible reaction, until the publication of a new study on the prestigious Journal of Autoimmunity (Dec 2013), developed by a research group at the Centre of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine and Medical Specialties, University of Rome La Sapienza (Perricone C et al, J Autoimmun. 2013 Dec; 47:1-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2013.10.004. Epub 2013 November 13).
The article discusses the importance of environmental factors in determining the onset of the autoimmune and inflammatory reactivity, and analyses the action of the various vaccine adjuvants in the activation of an immune reaction.
This is a significant and well-balanced article, describing the autoimmune diseases as rare conditions, if compared to the high number of performed vaccinations, but nevertheless existent and possible.
This balanced evaluation has, I repeat, all my full support. I do not stand against vaccinations a priori (for instance, the anti-diphtheria vaccine radically changed the clinical history of the disease, while the Sabin anti-polio vaccine was a real breakthrough for the humanity).
The choice of vaccination, however, has to be made in an informed and transparent way.
Why, for example, the state provides infants with a free hexavalent vaccine, which also includes some non-obligatory vaccinations? Those, who deny the existence of severe reactions to vaccinations (even if rare), cause harm to science.
If fully aware of the risk-benefit ratio existing, anyone could make a responsible choice to be vaccinated, or to have his or her children vaccinated, freely and consciously.
Those people thinking that vaccinations should always be mandatory or that the responses to adjuvants or other immunogenic agents are just balderdash or the product of fanatical groups, will have to change their minds, sooner or later.
The arising scientific data, such as those reported in the article mentioned above, are becoming significantly more numerous; the well-being of every individual derives from all the achievements produced by science, not from its lies.