COVID-19 Vaccines Could Be Spurring Variants, Say Israeli and European Experts

July 1, 2021 Updated: August 5, 2021

Commentary

In January, an Israeli Defence Forces Intelligence report (pdf) warned that Israel’s mass vaccination program could create an Israeli mutation that proved resistant to COVID-19 vaccines. Prepared for Coronavirus National Information and Knowledge Center, the report stated that “The mass vaccine campaign taking place parallel to the active outbreak in Israel may lead to ‘evolutionary pressure’ on the virus.”

In May, the Pasteur Institute’s Luc Montagnier, the virologist whose discovery of HIV won him a Nobel Prize in 2008, warned that COVID-19 vaccines are spurring deadlier variants. “I am doing experiments at the Institute with patients who became sick with Corona after being vaccinated. I will show you that they are creating the variants that are resistant to the vaccine,” he stated in an interview in France. “It is the antibodies produced by the virus that enable an infection to become stronger. … It is clear that the new variants are created … due to the vaccination.”

Though others have disagreed, that mass vaccinations in the midst of a pandemic can create variants is basic science, said Belgian virologist Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche, whose vaccine-industry credentials include positions at GSK Biologicals, Novartis Vaccines, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In a keynote address at the Vaccines Summit in Ohio and in a letter to the World Health Organization (pdf), Bossche outlined the danger. Because the COVID-19 vaccines are unable to quickly kill off the COVID-19 virus, they create a breeding ground for variants, much as happens with bacteria that aren’t killed off when patients don’t take a full course of antibiotics. The virus then has time to adapt and mutate—what doesn’t quickly kill it makes its offspring stronger—leading to the seemingly endless variants we’re now seeing.

The danger of this “immune escape,” said Bossche, is heightened enormously by lockdowns, which prevent the body’s innate immune system from being adequately challenged by random pathogens and other environmental agents to keep it trained and fit, akin to the deconditioning that occurs when we don’t get adequate physical exercise to keep our heart, lungs, and other muscles fit.

The perfect storm of an unfit innate immune system and COVID-19 vaccines ineffectual against ever-more-virulent mutant viruses of their own making will then see those previously infected with COVID-19 and the vaccinated themselves succumb to infection from the variants, claimed Bossche, who added that the vaccinated are at particular risk since the long-lived specific antibodies produced by vaccination are particularly adept at incapacitating the body’s general antibodies (pdf).

The theory that vaccines are not as effective against variants was bolstered in a non-peer-reviewed study in May by 14 researchers at five German medical schools and universities who discovered that the highly transmissible Delta (Indian) variant B.1.617—one of only four that the WHO classes as a “variant of concern at a global level”—is more able than the original virus to infect patients who were previously vaccinated or previously infected.

The authors concluded that the Delta variant’s ability to evade specific COVID-19 antibodies “may contribute to the rapid spread of this variant,” adding that “In populations with a high percentage of individuals with pre-existing immune responses against SARS-CoV-2 [aka COVID-19], viral variants that can evade immune control have a selective advantage.” They noted that a similar phenomenon may have occurred with the South African variant, B.1.351, and a Brazilian mutation called P.1, which also seem to thrive in populations that acquired immunity to COVID-19.

Those with immunity to COVID-19, in other words, could still be vulnerable to more transmissible and/or deadly variants of the virus.

Another non-peer-reviewed study that bolsters the theory came from Israel’s Clalit Health Services and Tel Aviv University. It analyzed 800 people who had been infected with COVID-19—400 of them previously vaccinated and 400 unvaccinated—to discover that those who had been fully vaccinated with two Pfizer shots contracted the South African variant at a rate that was eight times higher than the unvaccinated (though the sample size was very small). The study, which matched the two groups by demographics such as age and gender, also found that those who received one Pfizer shot contracted the British variant more often than those who received none.

Yet more concerns were voiced in a Science article earlier this year titled “New mutations raise specter of ‘immune escape,’” which described how more-deadly mutations could learn to evade the immune response in both previously recovered and vaccinated people—giving the mutation an advantage in populations with high immunity. In one example, Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, showed that E484K, a mutation of a worrisome South African variant called 501Y.V2, reduced the potency of specific antibodies by a factor of up to 10.

To combat the waves of COVID-19 mutations, many experts insist on the need for new vaccines to counter the mutations that the COVID-19 vaccines have spurred. But if those vaccines are administered during a pandemic, others warn, they could merely perpetuate a vicious cycle of new variants begetting the need for new vaccines begetting new variants.

Lawrence Solomon is an Epoch Times columnist, author, and executive director of the Toronto-based Consumer Policy Institute. @LSolomonTweets

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Lawrence Solomon
Lawrence Solomon
Lawrence Solomon is an Epoch Times columnist, author, and executive director of the Toronto-based Consumer Policy Institute.