If not through vaccines, how do we achieve herd immunity?
The so-called “herd immunity” is an artificial construct that should not be set as a goal that need to be achieved. It has never been demonstrated nor proven as a scientific fact documented through a valid scientific methodology. What needs to be achieved is the strengthening of natural immunity and the restoration and maintenance of the state of harmony between humans and microbes such that the immune system of humans are kept healthy and capable of managing potentially disease-causing infectious agents like viruses. This state of harmony is attained through wholistic health measures with a profound understanding that the integrity of the human being is largely determined by the integrity of the environment (physical, social, etc) and that good health is the general state of harmony between the individual and the environment (1). When this harmony is disrupted, usually because of anthropogenic causes, that is the time when infectious diseases, epidemics or pandemics ensue.
The goal of achieving “herd immunity” through vaccination is practically unattainable mainly because it relies on numerous flawed assumptions such as: homogenous, well-mixing population that is behaving basically in a similar manner, random vaccination with almost perfect efficacy, and uniformity in the population. In reality, many different factors shape patterns of risk and susceptibility to disease, including, among others, age and sex, ethnicity and life circumstances, including stress, lifestyle and naturally resilient immune system. Other problems that make “herd immunity” an unachievable goal through vaccination include: secondary vaccine failure (waning vaccine induced immunity), virus mutation (likely triggered by the vaccine), viral shedding, importation of illness and unexplained recurrent outbreaks.(2)
The human body develops immunity and defends most efficiently against a particular infectious agent as a result of natural graded exposure and re-exposure to the potential pathogen together with natural support factors such as proper nutrition, equitable and just socio-economic condition, adequate and sound health care delivery system, healthy environment, a healthy lifestyle and other health promoting factors. Most microbes, including presumed pathogens, in fact, exist in a beneficial relationship with humans such that they actually strengthen the immune system of their host. Most healthy people carry circulating potential pathogens as commensals. Most of the time, these potential pathogens are being circulated in complete harmony with humans, and nothing problematic happens, other than the body takes note of them and defends against them utilizing innate and natural adaptive immunity. The host usually has no idea that all these human-microbes interactions are happening. When an outbreak of infectious disease do occur, the most rational thing to do is to identify and characterize the pathogen accurately as soon as possible, correctly identify the infected and susceptible individuals or population groups most affected, and institute immediate, rational and comprehensive control measures using a people oriented and human rights based wholistic approach. A narrow, technology and “expert” driven top-down, authoritarian approach focused on a mass vaccination campaign to achieve “herd immunity” imposes unnecessary sufferings and exposes the people, especially the vulnerable population groups (e.g. the elderly and the very young) to significant risks of vaccine-induced adverse effects and makes them more vulnerable to several diseases that were not a threat to them previously.
According to the WHO, “’Herd immunity’ is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached”. (3). The US CDC adds on to this vaccine-oriented definition by stating that: “The concept of herd immunity is generally used for vaccinations in determining how much of the population needs the vaccine. Even individuals not vaccinated are offered some protection because the disease has little opportunity to spread within the community.”(4) If one looks into its origin, “herd immunity” is actually a theory that was formulated to explain the cyclical phenomenon of infectious diseases. The theoretical basis of herd immunity was laid down in the beginning of the 20th century in the context of the dynamics of measles. It was argued that the number of transmissions was a function of the number of susceptibles in the population. This was elucidated later by Dr. Hedrich (1933) who studied the natural occurrence of measles and observed that approximately 95% of the children in cities suffer measles attacks by their fifteenth birthday. It was noted that epidemics of measles occurred in 2 to 3 year cycles when less than 68% of children had developed a natural, lifelong immunity to it.(5) Later, vaccinologists adopted the concept of “herd immunity” with the false assumption that artificial immunity attained through vaccination is equivalent to natural immunity, despite the lack of understanding of the complexity of the immune system and the various factors that characterize and influence the relationship between humans and microbes. Nevertheless, vaccinologists just kept on revising their “herd immunity” thresholds and stated later that there had to be 95% vaccine coverage to achieve immunity and avoid epidemics. The concept of “herd immunity” was then adopted by the WHO defining it as “’Herd immunity’ is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached” (3). This definition was also dutifully adopted by practically all governments, health authorities and health professionals. While the official definition sometimes includes “immunity developed through previous infection”, the common interpretation of “herd immunity”, is that it can only be achieved through vaccination and that is the goal that need to be achieved if the world is to get through this Covid-19 pandemic. This interpretation of is certainly false.
Aren’t vaccines an important scientific weapon of humanity?
They can be but most vaccines being promoted now are not. The mistaken belief that vaccines are an important scientific weapon of humanity is premised on the assumption that vaccines were largely responsible for the decline in the death rates due to infectious diseases. This assumption is not true. The main reason for the decline was the improvement in the socio-economic situation of the people leading to better health and sanitation conditions. More than 90% of the decline in deaths rates for most infectious diseases occurred even before the introduction of vaccines (6). (How this has been misrepresented as “misinformation” will be tackled in another post. -Ed.)
Are you against the use of vaccines in general (“anti-vaxxer”)?
In general, yes, I am against the use of most of the vaccines that are being made and promoted by Big Pharma. However, I can accept vaccines that are truly proven relatively safe with the benefits clearly outweighing the risks. For example, I am not against rabies vaccines because I think the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. It is not correct and unfair to call me an “anti-vaxxer” because this term is derogatory, inflammatory, offensive, inaccurately simplistic, and largely false. It reflects bigotry and marginalizes people who have valid concerns about vaccine safety.
Why do you say that relying on vaccines is a reductionist approach? What’s wrong with that if it prevents severe disease and deaths?
Relying on vaccines is a reductionist approach because the highly complex and poorly understood immune system and interaction between the microbe and the human being is reduced into a simplistic erroneous assumption that producing antibodies (which is just a small part of countless elements of the human immune system) artificially through vaccines is highly effective in preventing deaths and eliminating the infectious disease. This is wrong because in most instances, vaccines in general, as they are used now, do not significantly prevent severe disease nor death compared to more holistic health measures in addressing infectious diseases without mass vaccinations (which could also possibly include targeted and judicious use of truly relatively safe and effective people’s vaccines) . Worse, vaccines have created significant serious adverse effects, including deaths, which in many instances are worse than the disease itself that the vaccine is supposed to prevent. (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
You say that vaccination is imperialism’s “most deceptive tool.” And yet independent “socialist” countries, particularly Cuba, are also known to develop vaccines in fighting disease. How do you reconcile that?
The fact that a socialist country like Cuba develops and promotes vaccines to fight disease does not contradict the general proposition that vaccination is imperialism’s “most deceptive tool”. Cuba’s revolution have succeeded basically in liberating the country from the clutches of imperialism and therefore, vaccination is no longer an effective tool of imperialism in subjugating Cuba politically. In most other countries, vaccination is still a deceptive tool of subjugation. Cuba is exceptional since it has succeeded in dismantling the structural causes of ill health (foreign dominance, corporate control, anti-people health system and policies, etc.). It is the victory of the revolution and the dismantling of these structural causes that is largely responsible for the dramatic improvement of the people’s health status, not vaccination. However, it appears that Cuba is still deceived by the massive vaccine propaganda by Big Pharma and US imperialism. Like practically all other countries, Cuba still follows the recommendations of the US CDC and WHO regarding mass vaccinations. Publications approved by the Ministry of Health of Cuba carry the misinformation and propaganda about vaccines by Big Pharma and the US imperialist. For example, a paper published by scientists from the Cuban Ministry of Health stated that: 1. “Certain infectious diseases can only be eradicated with vaccination, and anti-vaccination movements today constitute a major obstacle to reaching that objective.”; 2. “ Every year vaccinations prevent an estimated 2.5 million deaths of children aged <5 years.”; 3. “vaccination programs far outweigh possible adverse events”; and 4. “the scientific evidence on vaccine safety is overwhelming”. The publication also repeated the false allegations (which was obviously orchestrated by Big Pharma and the imperialists) against Dr. Wakefield regarding his study about the possible relationship of the MMR vaccine and autism. (14). However, an objective and careful review of scientific evidence clearly belie these statements and allegations (7-13).
Can you explain a bit more why you say that vaccines are based on an “outmoded” theory or approach to disease? Aren’t they developed using the latest advances in science and technology?
The basic rationale for the “vaccine approach” to disease is that it will stimulate the body to produce antibodies that would kill the invading microbe that causes the disease. This theory dates back to more than a century ago when there was very little understanding of microbes and the immune system, the nature of health and disease, the various factors that influence the health status, and the intimate relationship between the individual and the environment. The advances in science and technology over the years have not changed the basic rationale and theory behind the vaccine approach to disease. The major flaw of this theory is the reductionist thinking that it is the microbe that is solely responsible for the disease, the so-called germ theory of disease. This simplistic assumption has long been proven false by the scientific elucidation of the the multifactorial and multidimensional characteristics of health and illness and the important role that microbes play in the maintenance of human health. “Infectious disease”, in fact, is the result of the disruption of the harmonious relationship between humans and microbes. The ultimate objective of the vaccine approach is to kill and eliminate microbes despite advances in scientific knowledge since the turn of the millenium that this is neither desirable nor feasible. The more rationale approach is a wholistic approach, supporting the harmonious relationship between humans and microbes, strengthening natural immunity of the individual and nurturing the beneficial presence of microbes in human ecology. Outbreaks of “infectious disease” occur as a result of disruption of the harmonious relationship between humans and microbes brought about mainly by socially and environmentally destructive human activities and practices. The logical approach to address the outbreak is not an all out war against microbes but a measured, targeted response with the objective of restoring the natural harmony between humans and microbes.
- Quijano, Romeo F. Health and the Environment: The Intimate Connection
- Holland,M. and Zachary,C. 2014. Herd Immunity and Compulsory Vaccination-Does the Theory Justify the Law. Oregon Law Review, Vol. 93, No. 1
- Herd Immunity_Definition_WHO November 13, 2020. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Serology, antibodies and immunity. Q&A
- Herd immunity definition_CDC. Vaccines and Immunizations, Glossary. July 30, 2020.
- Hedrich,A.W.,(1933). Monthly Eestimates-Child Population Susceptible To Measles 1900–1931, Baltimore, MD. American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 17, Issue 3, May 1933, Pages 613–636,
- Humphries, S., & Bystrianyk, R. (2013). Dissolving illusions: Disease, vaccines and the
forgotten history. CreateSpace Independent Publishing,2014.
- Quijano RF. COVID-19 Vaccine-Concerns and Alternatives.
- Palmer, A. (2019, August 15). Truth Will Prevail, 1200 Vaccine Studies, Version 2.4
- Shoenfeld, Y., Agmon‐Levin, Tomljenovic, N-L. Eds.(2015)
Vaccines and Autoimmunity. Wiley Blackwell.
- Conte, L. & Lyons, T. (2014). Vaccine Injuries: Documented Adverse Reactions to Vaccines.
- Institute of Medicine, (2012). Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality. Washington,DC: The National Academies Press.
- Quijano, Romeo F. May 12, 2021. Should We Take the Vaccine Against Covid-19.
Wrong Kind of Green.
- G.S.(9 rev. April 2018). A Case Against Vaccination.
- Galindo-Santana BM et al. A Cuban Perspective on the Antivaccination Movement.
MEDICC Rev. 2019 Oct;21(4):64-69.
- Farmer, P., 1999. Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues. University of California Press, USA.
- Joseph, NS., August, 2007. Environmental Determinants of Infectious Disease: A Framework for Tracking Causal Links and Guiding Public Health Research. Environmental Health
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- Tirumalai Kamala. April 17, 2015. What do we know-function of viruses in the microbiome
- Ashton, H. et al. Viral Infections, the Microbiome, and Probiotics.
Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, Vol 10, 2021
Romeo F. Quijano MD is a retired professor of the Dept. of Pharmacology & Toxicology, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines Manila. He is a lifelong health and environmental activist.