- REFLECTIONS ON IMMUNITY, VACCINATIONS AND SMALLPOX
- Philip Incao, M.D. © December 11, 2001
- Part One: The Phenomenon of Immunity
- Illness is a process that everyone experiences repeatedly in ones lifetime.
- Until our modern era, illnesses were classified according to their recognizable signs
and symptoms. Today, in addition to the outward appearance of an illness, we also classify
it according to its unique features detectable with the microscope and with biochemical
tests. Thus many illnesses of similar or identical appearance which were lumped together
in the past can now be distinguished from one another based on their microscopic or
biochemical features. For example, what for hundreds of years was called influenza is now
described as a group of "influenza-like illnesses", each one associated with a
- On the other hand, many diseases known for centuries and recognizable by their typical
signs and symptoms have been confirmed by modern science to be distinct entities, i.e. to
be associated each with its own particular virus or bacterium and with no other. Measles,
chicken pox and scarlet fever are examples of these. It has long been known that in
some illnesses such as these, one experience of the illness usually confers lifelong
immunity. A second experience with measles or scarlet fever is extremely rare.
- These observations by physicians and patients throughout history, as well as careful
observations of the stages in a patients recovery from an acute inflammatory illness
like measles or scarlet fever, have led to certain basic concepts in medicine.
- One of these concepts was formulated as "Herings Law" in the 19th
century, although it was well-recognized and mentioned by the ancient Greek physician
Hippocrates. This law states that as an illness resolves, its manifest signs and symptoms
travel from the inner vital organs and blood circulation to the outer surface of the body,
often visible as a rash or as a discharge of blood, mucus or pus.
- In this way we "throw off" an illness. Another basic concept arising
from the phenomenology of illness, i.e. from observations of the directly perceptible
behavior of human illness, is the concept of immunity to or protection from an illness
that one has had before.
- This immunity to second episodes of certain illnesses like measles or scarlet fever
reveals a knowing function of the human being in relation to illness. This inner
knowing allows us, without any conscious knowledge or effort, to recognize an illness
weve had before and to thereby resist it or quickly repulse it.
- Herings law on the other hand is evidence of an innate doing function of
the human being in healing, i.e. we actively clear the illness from our body, we get it
out of our system as we heal. These inner activities of doing and knowing work more
strongly during illness than in the healthy state, and they were clearly recognized by the
ancient physicians. Hippocrates said illness consisted of the active element pónos
(labor) as well as the passive element pathos (suffering).
- Illness is intense inner work. Hippocrates perceived this labor as a cooking and
digesting (pepsis) of our inner poisons during an inflammatory illness. Today we
regard our inner work as a battle against a hostile virus or bacterium. The
all-too-often overlooked point however, is that it is we ourselves who inwardly,
unconsciously determine whether or not to engage in the battle. The great medical pioneer
Hans Selye, M.D., who introduced and elucidated the role of stress in health and
illness explained, "Disease is not mere surrender
but also fight for health;
unless there is fight there is no disease (emphasis mine)."1
- The symptoms of an acute inflammatory-infectious illness begin not when we are infected
by a virus or bacterium, but when we respond. The magnitude of our response is
influenced not only by the magnitude of the infection, but also by the inherent strength
of what is responding in us. For the ancient physicians the responder in us was an aspect
of our human spirit and our inner vitality; our inner healing force. Today the physical
basis of our inner responder is what we call our immune system. The phenomenon of immunity
hasnt changed, but our thinking about it has.
- The point I want to re-emphasize is that the severity of the early symptoms of a
particular illness is directly proportional to the vigor of our immune response as well as
to the burden and noxiousness of the infection to which we are responding.
- Using battle as our metaphor, we can imagine three possible scenarios. In the first, the
attacking army is not strong, but the defenders are, and the attackers are routed from the
field in a bloody but one-sided and brief battle in which the defenders suffer no
casualties. This describes a typical case of a benign but acute inflammatory-infectious
illness like roseola which usually expresses itself in a very high fever of 105° or
106°F and an extensive rash despite being no threat whatsoever to the host.
- A second scenario would be when the opposing armies are evenly matched and there is a
fierce battle with many casualties on both sides. This could describe an acute
life-threatening inflammatory illness like septicemia or an overwhelming pneumonia, in
which recovery or death is equally likely.
- In the third scenario, the war reporter arrives late at the battlefield and finds no
carnage, in fact little or no evidence of any previous battle. The defending army is quiet
and no attackers can be seen. The reporter at first concludes that it was a very
quick and easy victory for the defenders and the attackers have fled. On closer
investigation, however, he finds that no battle took place because the defenders were
unable or unwilling to fight. What our reporter at first thought was the defending army in
reality consists of non-combatant defenders who have been quietly and massively
infiltrated by the attackers. The attackers blend in, occupying the defenders
homeland, and any defenders who would fight them have gone underground where they
intermittently harass and provoke the occupying enemy.
- The point of this elaborate metaphor is to demonstrate by analogy that the absence of
fevers and other symptoms and signs of inflammatory illness (the absence of a battle) does
not always mean that our immune system (the defending army) has been victorious!
- Today it is more often the case that when we dont fight our battles vigorously and
often enough, i.e. when our fevers and discharging inflammations are very seldom and mild,
then we are liable to be infiltrated by the enemy in disguise and suffer from chronic
allergic or autoimmune disorders. This concept today is called the hygiene hypothesis. In
the 1920s Rudolf Steiner expounded essentially the same concept as a mutual
interplay between opposing forces of inflammation and of sclerosis, in which the healthy
state is a dynamic balance between the two.
- Returning to our third scenario, there are of course times when the absence of a battle,
i.e. absence of obvious disease symptoms, indeed does mean that the defending army has
easily routed the enemy and is truly immune from further attack. Thus we see that two
entirely opposite outcomes, 1. immunity from attack and 2. quiet infiltration by the
attackers into the defenders homeland (the host body) can have the exact same
appearance superficially. This analogy applies precisely to another pair of
similar-appearing but inwardly opposite states, i.e. the true immunity conferred by
overcoming illness as opposed to the apparent immunity conferred by vaccination. In both
cases the host appears to be healthy due to the absence of illness, but true health is
much more than the absence of overt illness. We will illustrate this point further when we
discuss smallpox in part 3.
- To complete our phenomenological description of immunity, we must note that in addition
to the functions of clearing illnesses from the body and of recognizing the
illnesses it has previously encountered, the immune system has another cognitive or
knowing capacity. This is the discrimination of self from non-self and the ability to
"tolerate", i.e. to not treat as foreign and to not react to, any elements
of self. This remarkable knowing of the immune system also extends to its ability to
tolerate, in pregnancy, a massive foreign presence in the body, the fetus, without
reacting to it at all.
- Thus we see the incredible skill and apparent purposefulness of doing and the
discriminating capacity of knowing possessed by the immune system. Although modern science
rarely uses the words "knowing" and "doing" in its descriptions of
the immune system, nevertheless distinct knowing and doing functions are very
clearly and unavoidably implied in all scientific writing on immunology. Science prefers
to focus on the molecular level, hoping to find in molecular events the elusive key to
understanding, if not why, at least how the immune system does what it does.
- Today the immune system is most often described in articles and textbooks as comprising
those bodily organs, cells and functions which discriminate between self and non-self. The
molecules of self or non-self which the immune system can recognize are called antigens.
One branch of the immune system, called the humoral immune system, consists primarily of
antibodies which are protein molecules made by the body to specifically interact with
- Antibodies attach themselves to any foreign antigens like bacteria or parasites which
may exist in blood or body fluids outside of the bodys cells. Antibodies are
attracted to such extracellular antigens and usually coat these antigens as one step in
the complex process of the destruction, digestion and elimination of foreign matter
in us by our immune system.
- We come now to a beginners question, one seldom or never asked in the science of
immunology. It is, why does our immune system work in such an inconsistent way, providing
for permanent immunity from recurrence only after certain illnesses and not after others?
A "why" question such as this is usually considered irrelevant in modern
science, while the equivalent "how" question is actively pursued. In the
case of immunity to illness, it is the "how" questions that have led science to
the idea and the practice of vaccination.
- For science the pertinent question is, how can we imitate nature and bring about
lifelong immunity to an infectious-inflammatory illness, but without having to experience
the illness first? The first task would be to learn exactly how nature itself manages to
maintain permanent immunity in us after a first experience of illness. What is
this process of lifelong maintenance of resistance to a particular illness? Can science
- Part Two: How Do Vaccinations Work?
- It is an interesting fact that sometimes a practical scientific breakthrough happens out
of an intuition, a hunch, long before the discoverer or anyone else is able to explain
just how and why this particular breakthrough works. This is true of the work of
Jenner and Pasteur, the great initiators of the practice of vaccination.
- Astoundingly, in our modern era when vaccinations are so widely acclaimed and practiced,
science still cannot explain how they work.
- In the New Scientist magazine of May 27, 2000, an article on AIDS vaccine research
quotes the following from two scientists: "Im amazed by the amount of basic
science we dont know," and "the assumption that successful vaccines work
by simply producing antibodies is almost certainly wrong." The article then describes
how one vaccine researcher found that in a certain viral disease of horses, vaccination
was successful in inducing antibodies against the virus, nevertheless the vaccinated
horses died faster than the unvaccinated ones! Referring to our present ignorance as to
just why these vaccinated horses would succumb, he stated, "Its an issue people
havent wanted to think about, but we might have to."
- Vaccine science and practice have always been based on certain assumptions, which we are
only now beginning to examine. One of these is that antibodies in the blood (humoral
immunity) confer protection against an illness, and that the level of antibodies
correlates with the degree of protection. This relationship between measurable antibodies
in the blood and apparent protection from illness has been observed for decades in many
types of infectious diseases. It is not known however whether the antibodies persisting in
the blood for months or years after an infectious disease are themselves responsible for
protecting us from recurrences of that disease or whether they are merely markers of a
protection that is accomplished by another part of the immune system. It is also not known
whether the apparent protection associated with vaccination-induced antibodies is a
benefit pure and simple or whether a hidden cost to the immune system is involved. The
idea of a hidden cost is considered unthinkable by vaccine researchers for obvious
practical reasons, yet it continues to be a nagging doubt among an ever-widening circle of
parents, consumer advocates, chiropractors, holistic physicians and other discerning
- The AIDS research quoted at the beginning of this article suggests that its not
the antibodies which protect us, but rather its the cellular immune system. Also
called the cell-mediated immune system, it comprises the white blood cells, all the lymph
nodes and lymphatic tissue throughout the body and is concentrated in the thymus, tonsils,
adenoids, spleen and bone marrow. It is generally agreed that the primary function of the
cellular immune system is to destroy foreign intracellular antigens like viruses and some
bacteria as well as the cells that harbor them. This isaccomplished by the various white
blood cells which are able to move inside, outside and through the walls of our blood
vessels and to access every part of the body.
- In the past I have been tempted to assign the immune systems doing function to the
cell-mediated branch and its knowing function to the humoral antibody-mediated branch.
This neat division of function is not borne out by the facts. Research shows us that each
branch participates in functions of both knowing and doing, although most of the immune
systems muscle to destroy, digest and drive out intruders is flexed by its
cell-mediated branch. Thus, while immune system functions of knowing and doing may be
conceptually distinct, in the physical reality they are overlapping in an exceedingly
complex orchestration of organs, cells, molecules, hormones and chemical messengers.
- There are also other aspects of the immune system which are beyond the scope of this
article. Reading a modern textbook of immunology can be frustrating as one finds a
bewildering array of cellular, molecular and antibody-mediated processes which science has
discovered without knowing how they all fit together and manage to cooperate in health and
in illness in the human being. Its something like hoping to find an understanding of
how an automobile performs by studying its disassembled parts in an auto parts shop.
- At the present time, it is thought that the encounter between self and non-self, that
is, between the immune system and a foreign "invader" like a virus or
- bacterium begins in the domain of the cellular immune system with a cell called the
antigen-presenting cell. If the foreign guests are not great in number or in their
noxiousness, the cellular immune system is able to dispatch them, digest them and clear
them from the body without ever calling into action its coworker the humoral or
antibody-mediated immune system. This explains the very important fact that without our
awareness we are continually infected with many small numbers of different germs in our
body, some of them nasty, and the cells of our immune system continually shepherd them and
keep them in check without the assistance of antibodies.
- Like dust and other unseen debris, these microorganisms enter our bodies as we breathe,
eat and drink. Only when the number or rate of growth of germs exceeds a certain threshold
are they then recognized by the humoral immune system, resulting in the formation of
antibodies specific to the particular provocative bug. At this stage we may have only mild
fleeting symptoms or none whatsoever. This explains how we may be found to have antibodies
against illnesses we dont remember ever having had! This is called "subclinical
infection", i.e. infection without symptoms, and it happens commonly.
- Thus science has discerned three levels of infection. The lowest level is our
steady-state equilibrium of everyday life in which we peacefully co-exist with our inner
menagerie of germs without needing to form detectable antibodies against them. At this
lowest level our cellular immune system is quietly busy keeping our bugs in line and when
necessary pruning the flock. Thus, although small numbers of disease agents are within us,
out cellular immune system sees to it that we remain well and free of disease symptoms,
and that our germs are under control.
- At the second level of infection, we temporarily relax our vigilance and allow a certain
group of germs to begin rapidly multiplying to the point where the humoral immune system
is alerted and begins to produce antibodies against the offending bugs. This sets off a
cascade of immune system functions which succeed in fairly quickly quelling our rebelling
germs, so quickly that the person hosting all these inner happenings is unaware of having
just gone through a subclinical illness. The identity of the wayward germ can afterwards
be diagnosed by the presence in the blood serum of the specific antibodies produced
against it by the humoral immune system.
- At the third level of infection things get seriously out of control and all our inner
alarm bells go off as a tribe of germs proliferates wildly and provokes the full defensive
reaction of our immune system. This is called the "acute inflammatory response",
which usually includes fever, release of stress hormones by the adrenal glands, increased
flow of blood, lymph, mucus, and a streaming of white blood cells to the inflamed area.
The human host of these wisdom-filled events now feels sick and may experience pain,
nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, chills and fever.
- We have now emerged from the realm of the subclinical to a full-blown clinical illness,
with all of its intense and often frightening symptoms. It is critical to a healthy
understanding of these things to realize that we never merely suffer through an illness in
a passive, one-dimensional way. In an acute illness, parts of us that in health are most
active, like our mind and our muscles, are subdued, while other parts like our blood,
glands and immune system are much more active than normal.
- Thus every illness rouses us to become more inwardly active than usual, and this inner
activity of ours is the cooking through, the sweating out and the throwing off of the
illness. This is hard work, and every illness calls upon and exercises capacities in us
which otherwise would have remained dormant. Adults often notice these new capacities as a
change in attitude or outlook after an illness.
- Children often manifest positive changes in their behavior or development after
overcoming an acute inflammation or fever.
- Having successfully passed the challenge of a particular illness, we may not need to
experience it again. Something about the illness and our response to it has made us immune
to its recurrence. If we knew what that something was, perhaps we could learn how to use
it to create health and prevent illness. Of course, this is the basic concept of
vaccination, but the all-important question is, does vaccination accomplish what we think
- Weve already suggested that its probably the cellular immune system, and not
antibodies, which protect us against illness. Surely antibodies can have no role in either
preventing or overcoming first bouts of infectious-inflammatory illness, because they are
formed only after the illness has peaked. It must be the cellular immune system which
confers the resistance to, as well as the capacity to overcome, both first episodes and
subsequent episodes of infectious disease. To understand how this might happen, it is
helpful to examine more closely the very illness and its vaccination which started the
whole debate: smallpox.
- Part Three: Smallpox And Its Vaccination
- That vaccines can confer a degree of protection from certain infectious-inflammatory
illnesses is clear. What is not clear, as mentioned earlier, is exactly what vaccinations
do to the immune system to bring about their protective effect. Researchers generally
agree that vaccines do not prevent the particular virus or bacterium from entering the
body nor from beginning to multiply within it. It is thought instead that the vaccines
stimulate or "prime" the immune system to quickly eradicate the offending germ
soon after it begins to infect the host.
- Let us consider how this process might work in the case of smallpox. Our knowledge about
smallpox and its vaccination is based on over 200 years of study of this dramatic and
much-feared illness by physicians in many countries.
- The natural course of the illness begins when one "catches" smallpox from
someone with a smallpox rash or from the mucus or pus of smallpox on a patients
bedclothes or dressings. For the next twelve days there are no signs or symptoms at all
and the new patient is not contagious even though the smallpox virus is multiplying within
the body. On or about the twelfth day large numbers of smallpox virus enter the blood
(viremia) and the "toxemic" phase of the illness begins, meaning a poisoning or
contamination of the blood circulation. This blood poisoning of smallpox is the beginning
of the overt illness, with symptoms of fever, prostration, severe headache, backache, limb
pains and sometimes vomiting.
- After three or four days of these symptoms the typical smallpox rash begins to erupt and
in the next one to two days the fever falls to almost normal and the patient feels much
- The skin eruption begins as red spots which over the next few days evolve into raised
pimples, which then change to blisters which then become pus-filled (pustules). On the 11th
to 13th day of the illness the pustules begin to dry up and form crusts or
scabs which then fall off by the end of the third week of the illness.
- The fever usually returns, less severely, after the pustules appear and then becomes
normal as the crusts and scabs form. If one dies from smallpox, it may be in the first
week of the illness if the toxemia is very severe, but most smallpox deaths have occurred
toward the end of the second week after the pustules appear.
- The majority of smallpox patients survive, and the falling away of the dried-up scabs
from the skin signifies the final stage of healing, approximately 33 days after catching
the infection. The dramatic course of smallpox illustrates very well some of the concepts
discussed earlier in this article. The twelve-day incubation period during which the
smallpox virus actively multiplies in the body without provoking the slightest symptom
confirms the point that it is our response to infection, not the infection itself, which
causes the typical disease symptoms of fever, aches and pains and extreme weakness.
- The fact that the fever drops and the patient feels much better after the rash breaks
out illustrates Herings Law. The poisons circulating in the blood during the toxemic
phase cause the most severe symptoms of smallpox. These symptoms improve considerably once
the blood clears out its poisons by discharging them through the skin, producing the
typical pus-filled blisters of smallpox. The chief danger of smallpox consists in the
degree of blood poisoning and in the huge and exhausting effort required for the immune
system to push the poisons out of the blood and through the skin. When the toxemia, the
poisons, are overwhelming and the patient lacks the strength to discharge them out of the
body, then the patient may die in the effort, either before the eruption ever appears or
else, utterly spent, afterwards.
- The patients who survive smallpox will have lifelong neutralizing antibodies to smallpox
virus in their blood and permanent immunity to a second episode of the illness. What does
- Using the battle metaphor from part one, we could say that the victorious defending army
has acquired much valuable skill, know-how, and confidence through its combat experience
as well as certain medals awarded to acknowledge their participation in combat. The first
three attributes are comparable to the inner strengthening of the cellular immune system
which is attained through overcoming an illness like smallpox. The medals as visible
tokens of achievement are roughly comparable to the antibodies visible on simple blood
tests indicating that the host has already won that battle and is likely to be immune to
future attacks of the same illness.
- If a foolish general were under the illusion that merely wearing a combat medal actually
conferred the know-how, skill and confidence gained in battle, then he might propose
pinning medals on the entire army to make the soldiers immune to any dangerous future
battles. That would make fighting unnecessary, and the army would be likely to grow slack,
restless and demoralized.
- This same reasoning applied to the immune system has led science to believe that since
the antibodies stimulated by vaccinations are no different from the antibodies generated
by illness, then the immunity in both cases must be essentially the same. But I would
maintain that immunity is not a direct function of antibodies (the medals). Immunity is
really the result of our experience, of having gone through, along with our cellular
immune system, an active process (the combat in
- the metaphor) of learning and strengthening. The immune system is a limb of us, and it
learns from experience just as we do. Antibodies signify that weve had experience,
often repeatedly. The immunity conferred by a strengthened cellular immune system
signifies that weve actively processed, digested and learned from the experience,
and we dont need to repeat it. This active process cannot be replaced by a
vaccination unless the hosts immune response to the vaccination is essentially
identical to its response to the illness itself, even though reduced in intensity. This
would mean that in order to produce genuine cellular immunity, a vaccination would have to
reproduce the experience of the illness, causing some of the same signs and symptoms,
though milder, that are caused by the illness. To see if this is true, let us look at
- The vaccination consists of introducing live cowpox (vaccinia) virus into the skin by
multiple superficial punctures in a small area about 1/8 inch diameter on the upper arm.
The vaccination site is then inspected twice after 3 and 9 days to determine if the
vaccination "takes" or not. A primary reaction or "take" evolves as
follows: for three days after the vaccination there is no reaction whatsoever.
- On the fourth day a small red pimple appears which gradually grows into a blister which
becomes pus-filled, surrounded by a zone of redness and often with tender, swollen glands
in the armpit and mild fever. This reaction peaks on the 8th to 10th
day, after which the pustule gradually dries up and forms a scab which eventually falls
off leaving a scar.
- Clearly the primary "take" reproduces the experience of smallpox itself
described earlier, but of course in a very limited way so as to generate only one pock
rather than many dozens of them. The cellular immunity produced by smallpox vaccination is
also limited, lasting from six months to three years. This immunity probably coincides
with the length of time that the exercised "muscle" of the cellular immune
system remains strengthened from its labor of discharging the single cow pock resulting
from the vaccination. The antibodies appearing in the blood after primary smallpox
vaccination may remain for over ten years, but these antibodies cannot be taken as a
trustworthy sign of immunity. The official description of the currently available smallpox
vaccine in the U.S., which was manufactured by Wyeth Laboratories, states vaguely
the level of antibody that protects against smallpox infection is
"2 If we can state blandly that the protective level of
antibody is still unknown after having assumed for several decades that protection is
directly correlated with antibody level, then surely it is time to rethink that
- In practice antibody levels were seldom used in the smallpox era as a measure of
immunity. Anyone not vaccinated in the previous three years was considered to be
susceptible to smallpox, regardless of their antibody level.
- The all-important question is how to interpret the meaning of reactions to smallpox
vaccination which are milder and briefer than the primary "take" which peaks in
ten days, and which does result in a genuine though short-lived immunity of the
- Since the early 1970s only two types of reactions to smallpox vaccination have
been officially recognized, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). For
purposes of greater clarity, in this discussion I will be referring to the older
classification which recognized three types of normal reactions to smallpox vaccination.
- The second type of normal skin reaction to smallpox vaccination was called the
accelerated or vaccinoid reaction, usually in people who had some immunity to smallpox at
the time of vaccination, either from a previous experience of the disease or from a
previous smallpox vaccination. In the accelerated reaction, the skin blister which forms
is smaller and reaches its maximum size and intensity between the 3rd and 7th
day after the vaccination. This reaction works in exactly the same way as the primary
reaction but to a lesser degree, boosting the cell-mediated immunity that is already
present, but waning, from the previous vaccination.
- It is the third type of reaction to smallpox vaccination that in my opinion has created
all the problems, that has been at the root of a 200 year old controversy over the
usefulness of smallpox vaccination. This stems from the fact that this reaction for years
was interpreted as indicating immunity to smallpox, when it often meant exactly the
opposite. In many cases the bearers of this reaction may have had a suppressed cellular
immunity, making them on repeated revaccination more susceptible to smallpox than an
- This third type of reaction to smallpox vaccination was originally called an immune
reaction, then later renamed an early or immediate reaction. A small pimple forms at the
vaccination site which may evolve into a tiny blister, peaking on the second or third day
and diminishing thereafter. An earlier textbook of viral diseases from the smallpox era
states the following: "The early or immediate reaction is an indication of
sensitivity to the virus and may be given by persons who are either susceptible or immune
.[It] cannot be regarded as a successful result and cannot be guaranteed
to induce or increase the persons resistance to smallpox."3 This is
a typical scientific understatement that glosses over years of devastating results of
smallpox vaccination in which thousands of vaccinated people who were thought to be immune
based on their so-called "immune reaction" to vaccination later caught smallpox
- Ian Sinclair, writing on the history of smallpox, states: "After an
intensive four-year effort to vaccinate the entire population between the ages of 2 and
50, the Chief Medical Officer of England announced in May 1871 that 97.5% had been
vaccinated. In the following year, 1872, England experienced its worst ever smallpox
epidemic which claimed 44,840 lives
.In the Philippines, prior to U.S. takeover in
1905, case mortality [death rate] from smallpox was about 10%
.In 1918-1919, with
over 95% of the population vaccinated, the worst epidemic in the Philippines history
occurred resulting in a case mortality of 65%
.The 1920 Report of the Philippines
Health Service [stated]
hundreds of thousands of people were yearly
vaccinated with the most unfortunate result that the 1918 epidemic looks prima facie as a
flagrant failure of the classic immunization toward future epidemics."4
- How can this be? How can these historical facts be reconciled with my earlier statement
that a primary take in response to a first smallpox vaccination results in genuine
cellular immunity for up to three years? The usual explanation offered is that the vaccine
used was inactive due to loss of potency in storage, but this clearly cannot be the whole
answer to the many documented instances of failure of smallpox vaccination to protect from
- The answer is an open secret which has been very well known for years, but never
fully understood: that many first recipients of smallpox vaccine fail to produce a take
(primary reaction) and continue to fail to do so even when revaccinated many times. The
textbook states, "Easton (1945) records of one man who died of confluent smallpox
that vaccination had been attempted at birth, again in 1941 and ten times in 1943 without
a take, thus emphasizing the danger of accepting even repeated unsuccessful vaccination as
evidence of insusceptibilityto smallpox.."5
- This is an excellent example of a vitally important observation leading to an
irrelevant, though not incorrect, conclusion. This example begs the question: how many
repeated failures to react does it take to justify the concern that continuing to
revaccinate may be doing more harm than good?
- The relevant conclusion, in my opinion, is that due to differences in immune response
capability among individual human beings at the time of first vaccination, in some
individuals the cellular immune system lacks the muscle to push out the single pock
eruption that is the primary take. The scratching of the virus into the skin of the arm is
a strong challenge to the immune system. A successful take depends on the ability of the
cellular immune system to respond to that challenge in an equally vigorous way, to push
the intruding virus right back out of the body. It is a simple matter of action and
reaction, of challenge and response. If Charles Atlas challenges a 97-pound weakling to
arm wrestling and his opponents arm immediately collapses, we would not think that
the challenge ought to be repeated indefinitely if the weak condition of the responder had
no means of improving! Yet in thousands of individuals in the last 200 years who may have
been weakened through stress, poor nutrition and poverty, whose cellular immune systems
were not vigorous enough to respond to smallpox vaccination with a take, the effect of
repeated revaccination, which was commonly practiced, was to weaken these
individuals immune systems still further, making them no doubt more vulnerable to
smallpox than they had been before vaccination! This would explain the disastrous results
of the above-mentioned smallpox vaccination campaigns in England, the Philippines and in
many other countries as well.
- The ambivalent nature of the early reaction to smallpox vaccination is analogous to the
third battle scenario mentioned in part one of this article. When little or no signs of
battle (reaction) are visible, it may mean that the defenders were easily victorious (the
host is immune) or contrariwise it may mean that the defenders lacked the strength to
fight and their homeland was subsequently quietly infiltrated by the attackers. When a
smallpox vaccine recipient lacks the immune muscle to respond to the viral intrusion of
his or her body with a vigorous pock-forming discharge, then we might expect that most of
the intruding virus has remained in the body. With each revaccination the burden of
vaccinia virus in the body increases, and the suppressive effect of this viral burden on
the cellular immune system also increases, eventually resulting in a dangerous state of
immunosuppresion. This may also explain the occasional catastrophic effects that were
observed resulting from a brief medical fad in the 1970s: treating recurrent herpes
infections with repeated smallpox vaccinations.
- The disease smallpox and its vaccination are fruitful subjects to study in order to
understand how the immune system works, because we can observe what happens on the skin as
vital clues to what might be happening inside the body. The main lesson from this study is
the exceedingly important fact that a lack of a vaccine reaction, and by extension a lack
of illness symptoms, can by no means be taken as a sign of immunity or of health.
- The other critical fact confirmed by our historical experience with smallpox vaccination
is that individual differences in response to vaccination are extremely important. One
size most definitely does not fit all. It is clear that although the smallpox vaccine was
effective in conferring a temporary immunity in some individuals, an unknown number of
other individuals were probably harmed by the vaccine. With the smallpox vaccination the
adverse effects were fairly obvious, they often appeared on the skin. With other vaccines
in use today the adverse effects may not be so obvious. Weve seen with smallpox that
the same vaccination procedure which temporarily strengthened the cellular immune system
in some individuals probably weakened it in others, especially upon repeated
- The possibility, that the up to 39 doses of 12 different vaccines which children today
receive by school entry may be impacting the cellular immune systems of many individual
children in a negative way, suggests itself to the open mind.
- Science has most of the knowledge and the tools it needs to investigate and to find
answers to these unanswered questions. All it needs now is the will. May it come soon, for
our childrens sake.
1 Selye, Hans. The Stress of Life. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978, p.12
3 Rivers, T.M., and Horsfall, F.L., Jr. Viral and Rickettsial Infections of
Man. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1959, p.686.
5 Rivers, T.M., and Horsfall, F.L., Jr. Viral and Rickettsial Infections of
Man. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1959, p.687.