New SafeMinds Investigative Research Report Refutes Deceptive CDC Vaccine Safety Argument

May 11, 2016


Fewer Vaccine Antigens DO NOT Equal a Safer Vaccine Schedule

For 15 years – since Paul Offit made his infamous claim that babies can safely receive up to 10,000 vaccinations at once – CDC-affiliated scientists and public health officials have promulgated a misleading argument about antigen numbers to reassure parents about the safety of the burgeoning infant vaccine schedule. Now, the Fewer Antigens/Safer Vaccine Schedule argument has been soundly refuted in a new SafeMinds Investigative Research Report.

The number of vaccines given to children by 1 year of age has risen from 11 in 1983 to 32 today. Parents are concerned about the effect on their baby’s developing immune system of these 3-fold higher exposures. Health officials engaged in vaccine promotion assert that while the vaccine dose has increased, vaccines have evolved over the years to be more targeted and contain fewer antigens and thus the current childhood schedule actually taxes the immune system less than before. Besides, they argue, babies encounter millions of antigens every day from their environment without ill-effect.

All vaccines contain one or more antigens, which are molecules that elicit production of a specific antibody by the immune system. These antigens are typically weakened by chemically or physically treating parts of viruses or bacteria that cause the disease the vaccine is meant to prevent, or, in the case of live-attenuated vaccines, by culturing the targeted pathogen in a non-human animal species. Vaccines also contain ingredients beyond antigens, such as mercury preservatives and aluminum adjuvants, which act on the immune system as well.

The fewer antigens argument underpins a 2013 paper by Frank DeStefano and colleagues to refute a connection between vaccines and autism .  The study involved adding the number of different antigen types in all vaccines each child received in one day as well as cumulatively up to 2 years of age.  The authors concluded that “increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines during the first 2 years of life (is) not related to the risk of developing an ASD.”

The fewer antigens argument has been widely and unquestioningly circulated by the media. An example is this opinion piece from Forbes:

“I’ve frequently pointed out that the immune system doesn’t count the number of shots. It counts what’s in those shots, the molecules known as antigens, which trigger the immune response. And the number of antigens children encounter by way of today’s vaccine schedule is thousands fewer than it once was.”

It also has been deployed by pediatricians in patronizing lectures that make parents question their own instincts and judgment about overloading their babies’ immune systems with too many vaccines too soon.

In this special SafeMinds Investigative Research Report, we critically examine the fewer antigens argument. We show that the argument is scientifically weak, on multiple levels, revealing a misunderstanding of immunology by CDC vaccine-promotion doctors.

The argument implies that antigen type is the sole or primary determinant of immune response to vaccination. Yet our report shows that antigen type counts correlate poorly with standard measures of immune activation.

The argument ignores the critical role in activating inflammatory processes of mercury, aluminum and other vaccine ingredients, which come with every dose, independently of antigen count.

The argument ignores the immune system’s reaction to antigen amount rather than antigen type. The amount of antigen in several vaccines has increased over time.

The argument implies that all vaccines today are designed in a more targeted manner, that is, they contain fewer antigens while still eliciting an effective immune response. But this assertion is driven entirely by the phaseout of a single trivalent vaccine, the diphtheria/tetanus/whole cell pertussis (DTwP) vaccine, which was replaced with the acellular pertussis DTaP vaccine in 1997 in the U.S. When DTwP and DTaP are excluded from the total vaccine schedule tally, the cumulative total antigen exposure for 12 month-olds from all other vaccines has increased substantially since 1983, by a factor of nearly 10.

While the DTwP to DTaP switch did lead to a decrease in adverse vaccine reactions, it also has resulted in an unfortunate resurgence of pertussis, even among highly vaccinated populations, due to the decreased efficacy of DTaP relative to DTwP. Thus the proponents of the fewer antigens argument are not only misleading the public by suggesting that all vaccines today have been modified to be more targeted, they are also ignoring the fact that in the one case where the argument actually applies (the DTwP to DTaP switch), the reduction in antigens has led to reduced vaccine efficacy.

The deceptive fewer antigens argument is yet another example in which the CDC has misled the public and glossed over troubling vaccine safety issues that deserve to be investigated further in a much more honest and serious way. The media has been complicit in misleading the public, by accepting CDC science as unquestioned truth and silencing dissenting viewpoints.

Two examples are worth highlighting.

1) Most recently, the shut-out of the movie Vaxxed by the U.S. media.  This movie was described as “something that people should see,” by autism father and actor Robert De Niro, even though he was bullied by CDC-affiliated scientists into pulling it from his own Tribeca Film Festival.

Vaxxed is about senior CDC scientist and whistleblower Dr. William Thompson and his revelations of fraud and corruption, in which top CDC officials deliberately destroyed evidence and manipulated data to cover up a significant association between autism and early receipt of the MMR vaccine. But you wouldn’t know that based on the hostile reception Vaxxed has had in the mainstream media. Their accounts invariably refer to the movie as “anti-vaccination”, label director Andrew Wakefield as “discredited” and emphasize that “study after study has shown no link between vaccines and autism”.

This coverage ignores the main point of the movie, which is that one of the key CDC studies that is most commonly cited to disprove a link between autism and vaccines in fact did show a significant link in its original rendition. The study protocol was manipulated by CDC officials to hide the links, with the result that the inconvenient early results had disappeared by the time the study was published.

2) The disappearance of vaccine harm through manipulation occurred not only with the Destefano et al. (2004) MMR study, which is the main focus of Vaxxed, but also with the 2003 Verstraeten et al. study on the vaccine mercury preservative thimerosal.

Verstraeten’s original results revealed a highly elevated risk of autism (odds ratio 7.6 or greater) and other neurological disorders among infants receiving the highest doses of thimerosal compared to those who received no thimerosal. Rather than making the signal from these early findings public, Verstraeten sent an email to his CDC colleagues with the notorious title “It just won’t go away.” This led to a private meeting between CDC officials and pharmaceutical industry representatives at the Simpsonwood Conference Center near Atlanta, in which various data manipulations were devised to make the inconvenient associations “go away” by the time Verstraeten et al. (2003) was finally published.

This covert activity has been well described in documents obtained through FOIA, and indeed led to the foundation of SafeMinds in 2001. Although these documents are readily available on the internet, the mainstream media ignores them when parroting the CDC line about no evidence connecting increased autism risk with vaccines.

The CDC is primarily concerned with vaccine promotion. Vaccine safety research by scientists and doctors employed or funded by the vaccine enterprise are prone to misleading and manipulated practices. One solution is to assign responsibility for vaccine safety, including research, to an independent Federal safety agency outside the CDC.  In the meantime, with the media abdicating its watchdog role, the new SafeMinds Investigative Research Report serves as a much needed alternative perspective, which we encourage parents to read before blindly accepting the deceptive fewer antigens argument.