[Editor’s note: Scott Gavura had circumstances pop up that prevented him from producing a post for today. As a result, I’m posting this. Some of you might have seen it already published elsewhere (although this is an edited/abridged version of the original post). If you haven’t, it’s new to you. A viral “open letter” by Geert Vanden Bossche has gone viral, and antivaxxers have been citing it as slam-dunk evidence that COVID-19 vaccination will lead to global catastrophe. As a result, I thought it worth providing this rebuttal and links to an even better rebuttal, to SBM readers in order to disseminate this information more widely. Enjoy!]

I’ve frequently discussed how in the age of the pandemic, at least in terms of antivaccine misinformation and pseudoscience, everything old is new again. Over the last several months, I’ve listed a number of examples of this phenomenon of antivaxxers recycling hoary tropes to apply them to COVID-19 vaccines; for example, claims that vaccines kill, cause infertility, cancer, autoimmune disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease, and are loaded with “toxins“, among several others, such as the claim that they “alter your DNA“. One such claim that I hadn’t yet seen is another favorite antivax claim, although admittedly it’s a rather niche claim in that you don’t hear it too often. Specifically, I’m referring to the abuse of evolutionary theory by antivaxxers to claim that vaccines select for more deadly variants of pathogenic viruses and bacteria, making mass vaccination programs dangerous or even potentially catastrophic. Such claims are generally an offshoot of another favorite antivaccine claim, namely that the diseases being vaccinated against are so innocuous that vaccinating against them is overkill and allowing infection and “natural herd immunity” to occur is better, a trope that has also been resurrected about COVID-19, a disease that’s killed well north of 500K people in just the US in a little over a year. This brings us to our topic, a misinformation-filled “open letter” by a scientist named Geert Vanden Bossche that went viral over the weekend. It’s been accompanied by a video interview posted to—where else?—antivaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense website. Reading the letter, what it reminded me, more than anything else, is an article that Andrew Wakefield wrote about the MMR vaccine and measles, published a few months before the pandemic hit. (Truly, those were simpler times.)

Dr. Vanden Bossche has publicized his letter on Twitter:

More recently, he set up his own website to publicize his letter:

Along with science, maa-aan!

He’s also started making rounds on the podcast/vlog interview circuit:

Before I get to Vanden Bossche’s open letter and his “warning to the world” that mass vaccination with the current COVID-19 vaccines is likely to lead to a global catastrophe due to the proliferation of ever-more-transmissible COVID-19 variants (as if the COVID-19 pandemic itself hasn’t been a global catastrophe!), let’s just review what Wakefield claimed about the MMR vaccine back in 2019. Central to the concept in his article, published via the in-house journal of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), an organization I like to refer to as the John Birch Society of medical societies given its penchant for conspiracy theories and pseudoscience, was that the MMR vaccine, by selecting for more aggressive measles strains, could result in a “sixth extinction event”. (I kid you not.) He even entitled his nonsensical screed “The Sixth Extinction: Vaccine Immunity and Measles Mutants in a Virgin Soil“.

As I go through Dr. Vanden Bossche’s open letter, I’ll point out the similarities, while also noting differences when they occur. By the time I get through this, I suspect you’ll understand why the misinformation that Dr. Vanden Bossche is selling (and I use the word “selling” intentionally, as I suspect there’s grift involved) is nonsense and nothing more than repackaged antivax tropes.

Quoth Bossche: “I am all but an antivaxxer!”

Before he gets to his concerns, like anyone spreading antivaccine disinformation, whether as an antivaxxer or someone who’s misguided, Dr. Vanden Bossche, like RFK Jr., must proclaim himself so very firmly “not antivaccine“:

I am all but an antivaxxer. As a scientist I do not usually appeal to any platform of this kind to make a stand on vaccine-related topics. As a dedicated virologist and vaccine expert I only make an exception when health authorities allow vaccines to be administered in ways that threaten public health, most certainly when scientific evidence is being ignored. The present extremely critical situation forces me to spread this emergency call. As the unprecedented extent of human intervention in the Covid-19- pandemic is now at risk of resulting in a global catastrophe without equal, this call cannot sound loudly and strongly enough.

As stated, I am not against vaccination. On the contrary, I can assure you that each of the current vaccines have been designed, developed and manufactured by brilliant and competent scientists. However, this type of prophylactic vaccines [sic] are completely inappropriate, and even highly dangerous, when used in mass vaccination campaigns during a viral pandemic. Vaccinologists, scientists and clinicians are blinded by the positive short-term effects in individual patents, but don’t seem to bother about the disastrous consequences for global health. Unless I am scientifically proven wrong, it is difficult to understand how current human interventions will prevent circulating variants from turning into a wild monster. Racing against the clock, I am completing my scientfic [sic] manuscript, the publication of which is, unfortunately, likely to come too late given the ever increasing threat from rapidly spreading, highly infectious variants. This is why I decided to already post a summary of my findings as well as my keynote speech at the recent Vaccine Summit in Ohio on LinkedIn. Last Monday, I provided international health organizations, including the WHO, with my analysis of the current pandemic as based on scientifically informed insights in the immune biology of Covid-19.

Dr. Vanden Bossche has also taken to social media to air his concerns, and his message has been enthusiastically embraced by antivaxxers:

Let’s just say this. If you claim to be “not antivaccine” but your message is so attractive to a rabid antivaxxer and leader of the antivaccine movement like Del Bigtree that he spends an hour promoting it, you are either deluding yourself about being “not antivaccine,” or you’re a useful idiot for the antivaccine movement, possibly both.

Unfortunately, Dr. Vanden Bossche’s open letter has gone viral and is being spread on antivaccine social media everywhere as “slam dunk” evidence that COVID-19 vaccines will cause a global catastrophe by selecting for the evolution of highly transmissible and deadly variants of COVID-19 that will escape immunity due to vaccines. (I note that Dr. Vanden Bossche only set up his Twitter account two weeks ago and already has over 16K followers.) In any case, I got a particularly strong “brave maverick” vibe from this passage:

While there is no time to spare, I have not received any feedback thus far. Experts and politicians have remained silent while obviously still eager to talk about relaxing infection prevention rules and ‘springtime freedom’. My statements are based on nothing else but science. They shall only be contradicted by science. While one can barely make any incorrect scientific statements without being criticized by peers, it seems like the elite of scientists who are currently advising our world leaders prefer to stay silent. Sufficient scientific evidence has been brought to the table. Unfortunately, it remains untouched by those who have the power to act. How long can one ignore the problem when there is at present massive evidence that viral immune escape is now threatening humanity? We can hardly say we didn’t know – or were not warned.

There you have it, the lone scientific maverick who is the only one willing to speak out about against a “horror” being perpetrated by conventional medicine and science that “they” don’t want you to know about or discuss, a horror that’s so “urgent” that he must speak now. Not for him is the too-slow process of seeking feedback from fellow experts or publishing in the scientific literature (even on a pre-print server). Don’t you see? The situation is just too urgent! And Dr. Vanden Bossche’s concerns are based on Science! He reminds me of another doctor who spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccination based on an unbending principle of immunology to justify his concerns, without any clinical or epidemiological evidence to support it. In any case, for someone who is so “not antivaccine”, Dr. Vanden Bossche sure is good at providing ammunition to the antivaccine movement.

So it’s not surprising that Dr. Vanden Bossche’s letter reminds me of Andrew Wakefield’s warning about the MMR vaccine. At this point, I will also mention that, because Ed Nirenberg produced an excellent rebuttal of Dr. Vanden Bossche’s mangling of immunology in his letter, I’ll stick more to my lane (mostly, anyway), although there will be some overlap. I will note that it is truly astounding how many statements that a supposed “expert” in immunology and vaccines can make that are just plain out-and-out wrong.

On COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Vanden Bossche channels Andrew Wakefield’s MMR misinformation

Let’s compare Dr. Vanden Bossche’s letter to what Wakefield wrote back in 2019. Here’s the crux of his concern, in which he likens escape from vaccine immunity to antibiotic resistance:

THE key question is: why does nobody seem to bother about viral immune escape? Let me try to explain this by means of a more easily understood phenomenon: Antimicrobial resistance. One can easily extrapolate this scourge to resistance to our self-made ‘antiviral antibiotics’. Indeed, antibodies (Abs) produced by our own immune system can be considered self-made antiviral antibiotics, regardless of whether they are part of our innate immune system (so-called ‘natural’ Abs’) or elicited in response to specific pathogens (resulting in so-called ‘acquired’ Abs). Natural Abs are not germ-specific whereas acquired Abs are specifically directed at the invading pathogen. At birth, our innate immune system is ‘unexperienced’ but well-established. It protects us from a multitude of pathogens, thereby preventing these pathogens from causing disease. As the innate immune system cannot remember the pathogens it encountered (innate immunity has no so-called ‘immunological memory’), we can only continue to rely on it provided we keep it ‘trained’ well enough. Training is achieved by regular exposure to a myriad of environmental agents, including pathogens. However, as we age, we will increasingly face situations where our innate immunity (often called ‘the first line of immune defense’) is not strong enough to halt the pathogen at the portal of entry (mostly mucosal barriers like respiratory or intestinal epithelia). When this happens, the immune system has to rely on more specialized effectors of our immune system (i.e., antigen-specific Abs and T cells) to fight the pathogen. So, as we grow up, we increasingly mount pathogen-specific immunity, including highly specific Abs. As those have stronger affinity for the pathogen (e.g., virus) and can reach high concentrations, they can quite easily outcompete our natural Abs for binding to the pathogen/virus. It is precisely this type of highly specific, high affinity Abs that current Covid-19 vaccines are inducing. Of course, the noble purpose of these Abs is to protect us against Covid-19. So, why then should there be a major concern using these vaccines to fight Covid-19?

Well, similar to the rules applying to classical antimicrobial antibiotics, it is paramount that our self-made ‘antiviral antbiotcs’ [sic] are made available in sufficient concentration and are tailored at the specific features of our enemy. This is why in case of bacterial disease it is critical to not only chose the right type of antibiotic (based on the results from an antibiogram) but to also take the antibiotic for long enough (according to the prescription). Failure to comply with these requirements is at risk of granting microbes a chance to survive and hence, may cause the disease to fare [sic] up. A very similar mechanism may also apply to viruses, especially to viruses that can easily and rapidly mutate (which is, for example, the case with Coronaviruses); when the pressure exerted by the army’s (read: population’s) immune defense starts to threaten viral replication and transmission, the virus will take on another coat so that it can no longer be easily recognized and, therefore, attacked by the host immune system. The virus is now able to escape immunity (so-called: ‘immune escape’).

I have to point out that coronaviruses, in particular SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, do not mutate especially fast as RNA viruses go. This particular coronavirus happens to have a proofreading mechanism that results in a low mutation rate compared to that of a lot of other RNA viruses, such as, for example, the influenza virus. Seriously, as a “vaccine expert”, how is it that Dr. Vanden Bossche does not know this? Even so, concern about immune escape is one reason why Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna used the entire SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, rather than specific segments of it that might serve as antigens, so that the polyclonal antibody immune response generated would be broad and unlikely to be “escaped” with single mutations—or even multiple mutations. A recent review article suggests that immune escape by variants of SARS-CoV-2 is a possibility, but one that hasn’t been definitively observed or demonstrated yet:

So is there cause for concern? Clearly, variability in the spike glycoprotein can affect the efficiency of antibody neutralisation. The role of spike protein variability inT cell immunity is likely to be elucidated in experimental studies in the next few months; a priori, the enhanced repertoire of T cell epitopes makes the loss of cytotoxic activity or recognition improbable. But only ongoing clinical trials will show whether vaccinated individuals recognise SARS-CoV-2 variants differently, and whether mutations decrease vaccine protection in some vaccinated individuals. The ongoing phase 3 trial of an adenovirus-vectored spike-based vaccine (Johnson & Johnson, NCT04505722) in South Africa, where the 501Y.V2 (B.1.351) strain with the Glu484Lys substitution is rapidly replacing pre-existing variants,11 might provide an opportunity to examine this question. Ultimately, most vaccines are based on a recombinant spike protein sequence.

And, echoing what I’ve said before:

Thus if evidence emerges that particular variants do appear to influence vaccine efficacy, it should be possible to periodically reformulate the vaccines so that they better match the circulating strains.

Exactly. If there emerge SARS-CoV-2 variants that are less susceptible to the immunity produced by COVID-19 vaccines, the answer is to reformulate the vaccines!

Now, let’s compare the passage above to what Andrew Wakefield wrote about MMR and vaccines:

Antibiotic use has selected out multiply resistant, more dangerous, and more pathogenic strains of bacteria. This growing threat has led what many senior public health officials in the UK and the U.S. to describe as the “post-antibiotic apocalypse” and the “end of modern medicine.” It is estimated that 50,000 annual deaths occur in Europe and the U.S. from infections that “antibiotics have lost the power to treat.” So in fewer than 80 years, we have reached the point at which, for example, with prosthetic surgery, wards are being closed down, patients are being sent home, and operations are no longer possible, because once the prosthesis becomes infected with such bacteria, it is virtually impossible to get rid of them. Are vaccines destined for a similar fate? It’s a very interesting question. One answer is, why not? For vaccines, resistance equates to strains of the microbe, the virus, or the bacteria that can elude the imperfect immunity created by the vaccine.

See what I mean? Dr. Vanden Bossche is using an eerily similar argument about COVID-19 vaccines and SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, to the one used by Wakefield about MMR vaccine and measles. Actually, it’s not just eerily similar, it’s almost exactly the same, namely that immunity from vaccines is an evolutionary selective pressure just like the evolutionary selective pressure from antibiotics to which the organism can become resistant. In the case of antibiotics, it’s called developing antibiotic resistance; in the case of vaccines, it’s called immune escape. And it’s true. There is always concern that a virus or bacteria can mutate to a form such that the antibodies produced by a vaccine against it no longer bind to it, so that the vaccine-induced immune response no longer kills or neutralizes the pathogen.

Again, this is an argument antivaxxers have made dating back at least to the pertussis vaccine. It’s a common argument among antivaxxers that the reason we’re seeing more cases of pertussis in people who have been vaccinated against it is because pertussis is either “evolving resistance”, or because it is shifting to a different strain not covered by the vaccine. A certain friend of the blog has written about this (at least twice), as has Skeptical Raptor. You can read the links if you want to know more, but the short version is that the acellular pertussis vaccine works but its immunity wanes (as it does after natural infection); this can be corrected with additional booster shots. Also, as I said at the time, while it is possible that the B. pertussis bacteria is developing “resistance” to the vaccine through natural selection, the evidence that it is doing so struck me as weak and preliminary, just as the evidence claiming that SARS-CoV-2 is evolving to be “resistant” to current vaccines strikes me as weak and preliminary. After all, as Nirenberg and the review article I quoted above note, while it is true that variants of concern demonstrate reduced antibody neutralization, we do not as yet have an absolute correlate regarding how high an antibody level is required to be protective, making the practical meaning of this observation difficult to determine.

Nirenberg goes further and notes that the antibody titers induced by vaccines are MUCH higher than those seen after infection, and we see hallmarks of memory responses induced by these vaccines from even a single dose, suggesting that, even though there is a decrease in neutralization by vaccine-induced SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, that might not portend a loss in protection. (Indeed, thus far, it appears that this is the case.) Even if it were evolving resistance, once again, the answer would be to reformulate the vaccine in order to include the altered antigens, the same conclusion made when considering the possibility that B. pertussis was evolving resistance or that evolutionary drift was leading to the predominance of strains not covered by the vaccine. Again, the possibility that COVID-19 might be developing “resistance” to vaccines or “immune escape” is not a reason to halt the vaccination campaign. It’s a rationale for developing reformulated booster vaccines that cover variants not well covered by the currently-used COVID-19 vaccines.

In fact, I basically said the same thing in 2019 when writing about Andrew Wakefield’s invocation of the same argument regarding the MMR vaccine and measles variants. I noted then that there was no evidence that mass vaccination with MMR had produced variants of the measles vaccine resistant to the immunity produced by the vaccine, just as I note now that there is as yet no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 variants are resistant to the immunity produced by current COVID-19 vaccines.

Up to this point, at its core and leaving aside minor variations, Dr. Vanden Bossche’s argument about COVID-19 vaccines and COVID-19 is pretty close to exactly the same argument that Wakefield fallaciously made about MMR and measles. It’s at this point, though, that Dr. Vanden Bossche throws in a twist specific to COVID-19 in which he argues that undertaking a mass vaccination campaign during a pandemic is dangerous. Why? He claims that it’s because there’s so much coronavirus circulating and so many people might produce suboptimal levels of antibody to the virus that, as is the case when antibiotics are used at levels too low to eliminate bacteria and thereby result in strong evolutionary selection for resistant strains of bacteria, a mass vaccination program is doomed to result in resistant variants of coronavirus, particularly when the vaccination program has started out “targeted”:

As if this was not already heavily compromising innate immune defense in this population segment, there comes yet another force into play that will dramatically enhance morbidity and mortality rates in the younger age groups: MASS VACCINATION of the ELDERLY. The more extensively the later age group will be vaccinated and hence, protected, the more the virus is forced to continue causing disease in younger age groups. This is only going to be possible provided it escapes to the S-specific Abs that are momentarily raised in previously asymptomatically infected subjects. If the virus manages to do so, it can benefit from the (momentarily) suppressed innate immunity, thereby causing disease in an increasing number of these subjects and ensuring its own propagation. Selecting targeted mutations in the S protein is, therefore, the way to go in order for the virus to enhance its infectiousness in candidates that are prone to geting [sic] the disease because of a transient weakness of their innate immune defense.

This is a very confused argument. First of all, note how Dr. Vanden Bossche is conflating vaccine-induced immunity with natural immunity. He’s arguing that vaccinating the elderly protects them, but because the virus will therefore be “forced” to infect the young it will only be able to do so if it can somehow escape immunity to the antibodies to spike protein (S-specific Abs) transiently raised in asymptomatic subjects. (He bases this on the observation that in those infected with COVID-19 asymptomatically, S-specific Ab levels decline faster than in those with symptomatic infections.) He’s also conflating innate immune responses with specific immune responses induced by either infection or vaccination. I’ll refer you to Nirenberg’s demolition of Dr. Vanden Bossche’s nonsense about “innate immunity”, as he explains why it’s nonsense better than I can.

What I’ll do instead is to point out that Dr. Vanden Bossche, whether he realizes it or not, is supporting the “conventional argument” with respect to COVID-19 vaccination. Specifically, scientists have long been pointing out that, the more we let COVID-19 circulate, the more likely virus variants that can escape the immune response to the vaccine (and/or to natural infection) are to emerge, and they use this argument as a rationale for vaccinating as many people as possible as fast as possible, in order to slow that circulation of the virus to as low a rate as possible, thus reducing the opportunities for strains resistant to the vaccine and strains able to re-infect previously infected people to emerge. Basically, it’s a race against evolution to get as many people as possible vaccinated before the virus can evolve “resistance” to the vaccine, and we’re fortunate that, contrary to Bossche’s claim, SARs-CoV-2 does not mutate very fast for an RNA virus.

But wait, says Dr. Vanden Bossche. Mass vaccination will only work if the vaccine prevents or decreases transmission; i.e., if it is not “leaky” (although he doesn’t use the term). His argument is that the COVID-19 vaccine is “leaky”, that it does not prevent transmission, allowing the evolution of nasty variants in the absence of symptomatic disease. So-called “leaky” vaccines are vaccines that prevent disease, but do not appreciably slow transmission of the pathogen. An example of a “leaky” vaccine is the vaccine against Marek’s disease, highly contagious and deadly viral disease of chicken that is a major problem in the poultry industry, and Dr. Vanden Bossche relies on this precedent, as Nirenberg explains:

For a moment though, let’s entertain the notion that the vaccines are leaky. In general, you would have a hard time identifying any human vaccine that could be called leaky (though emerging findings regarding influenza vaccines give hints that there may be a leaky vaccine effect involved, given their excellent efficacy among children, who are critical vectors, I am not so convinced- though if we do grant that they are leaky, this only serves to undermine Bossche’s argument). The classic example of a leaky vaccine is actually the one for Marek’s disease, caused by a herpesvirus that infects chicken and causes lymphoma among other illnesses. It has been observed that over time Marek’s disease virus has become more virulent, and this has been attributed classically to a leaky vaccine effect.

As I noted when Andrew Wakefield explicitly used the example of Marek’s disease to claim that a “leaky” vaccine to MMR would cause a global catastrophe by selecting for deadly measles variants, yes, a leaky vaccine changes the selective pressure and permits the evolution of highly virulent strains because the virus retains the ability to continue to spread among vaccinated populations, leading to the vaccine selecting for the most virulent mutations. However, even if this phenomenon occurs with a human vaccine—it doesn’t, as far as we know—that’s an even more compelling reason to be vaccinated. After all, if a human vaccine lets deadlier versions of a disease flourish, that is all the more reason to be protected from those deadly strains. As any chicken farmer knows (or any veterinarian like Dr. Vanden Bossche should know), vaccinating against Marek’s disease has population health benefits in that it prevents mass death due to the disease, even if the vaccine can allow more virulent strains to evolve. Moreover, as Nirenberg points out, there is an increasing body of evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine is not “leaky”. Sure, we don’t yet have a firm grasp of how much the vaccine decreases transmission, but there is good emerging evidence that it does significantly decrease transmission. He also points out that there is new research challenging the previous dogma that “leaky” vaccines always select for more virulent strains of pathogen and cannot produce herd immunity.

Basically, Dr. Vanden Bossche’s open letter is a mess that directly channels Andrew Wakefield. As I like to say, if you ever write anything that channels Andrew Wakefield, you really should reconsider your life choices.

Who is Geert Vanden Bossche?

What’s particularly dangerous about Dr. Vanden Bossche’s misinformation is that, on the surface, he appears to be a vaccine expert, whom antivaxxers touting his open letter (and all the follow-up “science” he’s been Tweeting and posting to his website) have been describing as a “world’s expert” in vaccines. Before this open letter, I hadn’t recalled ever having heard of Dr. Vanden Bossche before, so I looked around. His LinkedIn profile lists several impressive positions, including Head of the Vaccine Development Office for the German Centre for Infection Research (for seven months, August 2017-February 2018); Chief Innovation & Scientific Officer for Univac, where he claimed to be an inventor of a new vaccine technology based on natural killer (NK) cells (2014-2016); and the managing director of VARECO, claiming to be a consultant about vaccine development (2012-present). He also states that he’s worked with GAVI: The Vaccine Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, although searching the websites, I could find no reference to him other than a report written by him and others to GAVI about progress on an Ebola vaccine. He does apparently have some history working on vaccines.

However, Dr. Vincent Iannelli asked the question, “Who is Geert Vanden Bossche?” too and is…unimpressed. And so am I. I searched PubMed for what I expected to be an extensive publication record on vaccines and found…eight publications, the most recent of which was from 1994 and none of which have anything to do with vaccines. However, Dr. Vanden Bossche’s claims to have worked with the Gates Foundation, GAVI, and other vaccine-related enterprises does seem to be legitimate, which makes me wonder: Has he gone crank or is he a grifter?

It’s here that his LinkedIn profile helps, specifically, his entry under Univac:

I founded Univac as [sic] inventor of a new vaccine technology which I subsequently further developed as CSO of the Company. The technology enables the development of universal vaccines educating the host immune system to redirect immune targeting away from canonical antigens to a widely divergent spectrum of vitally vulnerable pathogen-derived ‘self-mimicking’ antigens, irrespective of MHC polymorphism. Although ‘non-self’ and exposed on the surface of infected or pathologically altered cells, these antigens are not effectively recognised upon natural infection or disease.

This new type of vaccines harnesses the power of the immune system by unlocking the untapped potential of self-centered Natural Killer (NK) cells capable of recognising these unconventional antigens. The resulting type of immune response is unprecedented and licenses the host immune system to readily eliminate infection or to cure disease across a broad range of unrelated pathogens and/ or mammalian species. This sharply contrasts with conventional targeting of natural immune responses as induced by conventional vaccines.

Because of their fast (NK cells) and universally protective effect, Univac vaccines are uniquely suited to prevent pathogenic agents from escaping host immune responses as of an early stage of infection or immune-mediated disease. The technology obviates the need for traditional adjuvants, multiple boost injections or expensive manufacturing processes and is readily compatible with intradermal or mucosal administration. Hence, it also offers unprecedented advantages in terms of safety, convenience and cost-effectiveness.

And now, back to his open letter:

Paradoxically, the only intervention that could offer a perspective to end this pandemic (other than to let it run its disastrous course) is …VACCINATION. Of course, the type of vaccines to be used would be completely different from conventional vaccines in that they’re not inducing the usual suspects, i.e., B and T cells, but NK cells. There is, indeed, compelling scientific evidence that these cells play a key role in facilitating complete elimination of Covid-19 at an early stage of infection in asymptomatically infected subjects. NK cells are part of the cellular arm of our innate immune system and, alike [sic] natural Abs, they are capable of recognizing and attacking a broad and diversified spectrum of pathogenic agents. There is a sound scientific rationale to assume that it is possible to ‘prime’ NK cells in ways for them to recognize and kill Coronaviruses at large (include all their variants) at an early stage of infection. NK cells have increasingly been described to be endowed with the capacity to acquire immunological memory. By educating these cells in ways that enable them to durably recognize and target Coronavirus-infected cells, our immune system could be perfectly armed for a targeted atack to the universe of Coronaviruses prior to exposure. As NK cell-based immune defense provides sterilizing immunity and allows for broad spectrum and fast protection, it is reasonable to assume that harnessing our innate immune cells is going to be the only type of human intervention left to halt the dangerous spread of highly infectious Covid-19 variants.

If we, human beings, are committed to perpetuating our species, we have no choice lef [sic] but to eradicate these highly infectious viral variants. This will, indeed, require large vaccination campaigns. However, NK cell-based vaccines will primarily enable our natural immunity to be better prepared (memory!) and to induce herd immunity (which is exactly the opposite of what current Covid-19 vaccines do as those increasingly turn vaccine recipients into asymptomatic carriers who are shedding virus). So, there is not one second left for gears to be switched and to replace the current killer vaccines by life-saving vaccines.

As I suspected, Dr. Vanden Bossche is selling something. He’s selling his idea of a vaccine designed to activate natural killer cells. It’s hard for me not to believe that he’s grifting, and this demonization of existing COVID-19 vaccines based on speculative science and no strong data yet is a sales pitch. Come to think of it, the similarities between Dr. Vanden Bossche and Andrew Wakefield strike me as stronger than ever now, given that, as well documented by Brian Deer, Wakefield basically published his fraudulent science to support the claim that the MMR vaccine causes autism in order to make a market for his own single vaccine against the measles. Naturally grifters are going to use the same arguments, although I don’t see any fraud in Dr. Vanden Bossche, other than his scientifically risible arguments.

Amusingly, as I was looking this post over earlier this morning for a final edit, I saw that no less a grifter than RFK Jr. himself had published a “rebuttal” to Dr. Vanden Bossche’s open letter by someone named Rosemary Frei, “The ‘Not-So-Hidden Agenda’ Behind Bossche’s Concern Over COVID Mass Vaccination“. Noting how quickly Dr. Vanden Bossche’s letter was embraced by antivaxxers, Frei then writes:

But from my experience as a former long-time medical writer and journalist (1988-2016) — particularly a four-month stint with media-relations giant FleishmanHillard in 1994 (yes, I’ve worked for the dark side) — this has all the hallmarks of a drug-company astroturf campaign. It’s another step in the decades-long erasure of the fact that our sophisticated and highly effective immune systems work well and don’t need any assistance from the biomedical/pharmaceutical industry.

There’s abundant evidence that Vanden Bossche has a not-so-hidden agenda. For example, just before the three-minute mark in the video interview of Vanden Bossche by McMillan, Vanden Bossche indicates he’s a long-time vaccine developer. He adds he’s now focusing on vaccines that “educate the immune system in ways that are to some extent more efficient than we do right now with our conventional vaccines.” Clearly he’s got significant conflicts of interest. Therefore he has zero credibility when it comes to advising the public or anyone else about how to avoid negative effects of mass vaccination. However, Bigtree, Coleman and others don’t point out any of the red flags. Despite taking Vanden Bossche’s assertions extremely seriously, these high-profile alternative-media figures don’t even do basic due diligence such as looking into McMillan, who’s the man who interviewed Vanden Bossche, or the company McMillan is apparently affiliated with, Vejon Health.

It appears that Vejon Health is a dormant company, if it exists at all. Even more hilariously (and a bit uncomfortably) Frei is pretty spot on when she notes:

However, this is on very shaky ground. Because, among other things: 1) Neither in the original March 6 piece nor his March 13 follow-up does Vanden Bossche provide any direct, non-theoretical evidence that this is happening; 2) The ‘natural antibodies’ that are produced after encountering a pathogen are only a small part of a quick, effective and broad-based first-line immune-system defense — known as ‘innate’ or ‘passive’ immunity — which in fact largely comprises other components; and 3) Vanden Bossche downplays the effectiveness of the antibodies our bodies naturally produce as part of the second-line (‘adaptive’) part of the immune system that also has served us extremely well for millennia.

You know what? I think that grifters recognize fellow grifters, and Frei recognized that Dr. Vanden Bossche is stoking fear of existing COVID-19 vaccines to produce a sales rationale for his own NK-based vaccine, just as Andrew Wakefield stoked fear of the MMR in order to support his own measles vaccine. Truly, in the age of COVID-19, everything old is new again, and the antivaccine grift continues.

Posted by David Gorski

Dr. Gorski's full information can be found here, along with information for patients. David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS is a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute specializing in breast cancer surgery, where he also serves as the American College of Surgeons Committee on Cancer Liaison Physician as well as an Associate Professor of Surgery and member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology at Wayne State University. If you are a potential patient and found this page through a Google search, please check out Dr. Gorski's biographical information, disclaimers regarding his writings, and notice to patients here.