I never thought I’d be talking about vaccines, but doctors usually make things interesting. They have to explain why a new vaccine or drug is required, why it was added, how it’s actually effective, and why some people really don’t seem to benefit. This week, I didn’t care as much as I used to to think about trying to get into the habit of thinking about vaccines. I started to realize that might be my worst fear about them: just as I once thought they were helping me, I feel differently about them now.
Covid-19 is a multiple myeloma vaccine that’s been around since 1994 and has been produced by the company Gilead Sciences. It’s a huge shot that’s given through a direct injection into the eyes, where it’s able to protect children over a period of ten years against cancer. It’s only in testing right now — though it’s having mixed reactions at the world’s biggest conference on immunotherapy, the International Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (ISICEC).It was, as it is right now, one of the most heated sections. On the one hand, several hospitals and treatment centers in Europe have made use of the vaccine; on the other, the European Court of Human Rights recently ruled that the World Health Organization needs to follow the recommendations from a scientific report. The finding was that vaccination of babies under the age of one should be stopped in countries where they have a chance of developing an immune response to the virus, for which it’s called the “New Motherload Vaccine.”
Public health activists have previously called for a ban because it isn’t available in large enough quantities to prevent this kind of risk.
The case now before the European Court of Human Rights is the latest in a series of rulings that have found vaccines to be unconstitutional in Germany.
You don’t need to be a scientist or an investment banker to understand that this is bad news. Why did health experts have to get the word out to everyone that this is a bad idea? Because any suggestion that human beings aren’t in fact resilient enough to survive an immune reaction that hits them in their skin at the speed of light seems like paranoia and misplaced faith.
This is especially important because vaccines — even just the stuff we inject into humans for the first time — have advanced remarkably. The newest line of vaccines came in 1997, and use of the shots increased by more than 100 percent in the five years before. An attempt to develop oral vaccine-like oral therapies for several types of cancer such as melanoma has been put on hold for years, but it could come back, according to a study published in the journal The Lancet this week.
Focusing on how a vaccine might affect your blood, nerves, or cell membranes could make it easy to overlook the very real risks, however. In one study from the Texas Tech research center, 33 percent of people with an open-ended immune response survived after being vaccinated, but there was a significant increase in deaths. Even if this represents a new kind of immunotherapy, scientists don’t want anyone to get too excited because it works.
In the meantime, this isn’t all doom and gloom. Scientists are still working on vaccines that work on the immune system, and it’s actually a rather optimistic view that we might be able to prevent a polio disease that’s never previously been shown to strike humans. At the very least, there is a possibility of children who might benefit from having a very small dose injected into their faces before the virus spreads.
That is, if we’re still going to support us in keeping children healthy.