by Byron J. Richards, CCN
In a just-published shocking study virology researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands have demonstrated that a regular flu vaccine in children actually worsens a key aspect of their flu-fighting immune system. This research was not conducted by vaccine-disliking scientists. Rather, it was conducted by pro-vaccine researchers who have spent their careers trying to develop better vaccines. Lead author Rogier Bodewes delivered the sobering message as he explained that flu vaccines “have potential drawbacks that have previously been under appreciated and that are also a matter of debate.”
The researchers found that the CD4 T helper cell response to the flu influenza A was present in both the unvaccinated and vaccinated children. On the one hand this means that in healthy children a vaccine was not needed to elicit a T helper cell response to the flu. Such helper cells coordinate the higher-powered adaptive immune response so that antibodies can destroy the virus. On the other hand it means that the T helper cell response in children with respiratory disease was comparable to the healthy children, potentially offering them some protection against whatever viral strains happened to be in the flu vaccine.
It is important to understand that children need to develop a healthy immune system, like going to school and getting an education. Another aspect of the flu-fighting immune system is the CD8 T cells, also called cytotoxic T cells, which destroy virally-infected cells as well as cancer cells. This is also a vital part of a robust anti-viral immune response.
In the healthy unvaccinated children a rise in these cytotoxic T cells was seen as the children got older – giving them important broad based-protection against any type of flu strain as well as a healthier immune response for knocking out any mutant cancer cells. In the unvaccinated children their immune systems were learning to become more effective as they grew older.
In contrast, the gradually increasing CD8 cytotoxic T cell response that was present in unvaccinated children was absent in the regularly vaccinated children with cystic fibrosis. Regular flu vaccines appeared to interfere with the healthy development of the immune response in a way that left a child more vulnerable to flu and potentially cancer (which was not part of this study). This means children getting flu vaccines would get some protection against whatever is in the vaccine that year but would have reduced protection against anything that wasn’t, a problem that would get worse as the child grew older. It is common that vaccines don’t cover all the viruses in any given season, especially a suddenly-emerging pandemic strain. It is also typical that viruses mutate rapidly in any given flu season, making vaccines a limited tool of effectiveness.
While this is only one angle of the vaccine issue, it is a dramatic finding. I don’t expect public health officials to discourage people from getting flu vaccines. However, I cannot understand why public health officials fail to take the most basic steps to ensure children have a robust and healthy immune response, such as promoting the vital importance of vitamin D adequacy for the anti-viral flu response. It is well known that 70% of children in the United States lack optimal vitamin D. It is obvious that public health in the United States is more about protecting vested interests and antiquated paradigms of health than truly protecting the public health.