URGENT PUBLIC HEALTH COMMUNICATION: The 2020 Influenza Vaccine May Cause An Adverse Reaction in Asymptomatic COVID-19 Carriers.

Image for post
Image for post
Over the past week, South Korea has reported 59 deaths associated with that nation’s 2020 Influenza vaccine program. This is a concerning and unusual signal in the vaccine space. Though that nation’s public health agency has denied that these deaths were related to usual vaccine related complications, it remains unclear if any of the deceased were carriers of COVID-19. It is critical for S. Korea to immediately determine if the unfortunate deceased were infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, specifically at the time of their death, at any higher rate than is seen in that country’s general population.

The annual Flu vaccine is a critically important public health need.

It is absolutely imperative that as many people as possible undergo Flu vaccination each year, globally.

Before I continue, I want to be emphatic, that the warning herein is NOT intended to discourage Influenza vaccinations in 2020. It is rather a call for caution and an invitation to consider the principles of immunology, in the face of this year’s historic pandemic virus related uncertainty. With millions of lives exposed, we must tread with caution and with intellectual acuity as professionals and citizens.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus causes COVID-19 disease by activating an inflammatory reaction. The COVID-19 inflammation seems to affect many different organs and tissues. The most critical organs that are affected seem to be the lungs and blood vessels — because when the inflammation goes out of control in these tissues, the patients can get critically ill or die from respiratory failure or thromboembolic events like stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolism.

The current position of most global public health agencies, including in the US, regarding the 2020 Influenza vaccine schedule is: that we cannot afford to have the COVID-19 pandemic be compounded by an Influenza epidemic/pandemic. Therefore, nearly every public health agency, and the WHO, are recommending all citizens to be vaccinated against Influenza this year.

Of course, this position is logical and correct — but only if it considers the full challenge posed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and mitigate against any potential risk.

I am specifically alluding to the fact that a substantial proportion of people with SARS-CoV-2 infection are so-called asymptomatic carriers, whose reaction to the adjuvant effect of vaccines, in general, is unknown.

These asymptomatic carriers, for whatever reasons, do not exhibit any of the overt clinical symptoms of illness — that is, fevers and respiratory failure. Most such individuals are identified on surveillance screenings — and many go unrecognized.

Because we know that growing millions, even billions, of people worldwide will be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 in the next several months, it is critical that we consider whether any environmental triggers under our control could initiate adverse COVID-19 related side-effect in these people.

It is a matter of basic immunological principle that vaccines contain adjuvant substances that stimulate inflammation, as part of their process of creating immunity to the target pathogen. But a recognized downside of this vaccine adjuvant effect is that it can trigger unwanted inflammatory responses in the vaccine recipient.

Normally, vaccine related inflammatory side-effects are minimal in their incidence and mild in their effect. Certainly, under normal circumstances the public health benefit of vaccinations in preventing epidemics, far outweighs the risk to any particular individual.

But 2020 is not a normal year.

The question every responsible physician and regulator, as well as any educated citizen, must ask this year is the following:

Is it possible that, with billions of Flu vaccine doses scheduled for administration globally, a vaccine adjuvant effect in “Asymptomatic Carriers” of COVID-19 might cause a new, hitherto unknown, kind of adverse event in some, or all, of the millions of people in this carrier category this year? In other words, does preventive Influenza vaccination in the year of COVID-19 carry an added new health/mortality risk we ought to consider in COVID-19 carriers?

It is my opinion that based on the propensity of SARS-CoV-2 for causing vasculitis, or inflammation of the blood vessels, a vaccine adjuvant adverse effect in asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 could take the form of blood clots and vascular accidents.

This possibility cannot be ignored by US public health or WHO officials — because it is a prognostication based in the basic principles of immunology and immune adjuvant science, as well as, the inflammatory nature of COVID-19.

The image that comes to mind in considering the potential risk I am alluding to is a lit match coming in contact with a powder keg. In this visual metaphor, a vaccine adjuvant is to the asymptomatic COVID-19 carrier, as is a lit match to the a powder keg. Will every single powder keg blow up on contact with a lit match, probably not. But a substantial frequency will.

So we ought to be vigilant and look for any new or emerging vaccine associated adverse events or mortalities this year. And, if confronted with any such events we ought to ask very carefully, if the affected people are carriers of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Certainly, we ought to consider whether it is worthwhile to screen for COVID-19 prior to immunizing the population — certainly we ought to consider doing so in vulnerable demographic and clinical populations.

I was extremely concerned when, last week, news emerging from South Korea reported 59 deaths associated with their national Influenza vaccination program. This index event is potentially seismic in the Flu vaccine space, where mortalities are exceedingly rare. As of today, within a span of one week associated with the S. Korean Flu vaccine program, 59 people are reported dead.

Additionally, this news prompted the government of Singapore to entirely suspend its Flu vaccine program. Two days later the country of Malaysia followed suit. Are these countries over-reacting, or do they know something we don’t — yet?

The makers of these vaccines, Sanofi among them, are rejecting the notion that these deaths are related to toxic batches of the vaccine. I think it is reasonable given the high safety standards applied by these manufacturers to take them at their word. These vaccines are not toxic concoctions that deviate from the normal preparation used every year.

Also, so far the South Korean public health authorities are stating that these deaths were not related to classically expected adverse vaccine reactions. But, they are vague on the details. Specifically, if these authorities are looking for “expected” signs of vaccine adverse reactions, they’d be looking for things like allergic reactions or the neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barre.

BUT, if a new type of COVID-19 interaction with the vaccine adjuvant causes vascular complications or blood clots, they would not be classifying these as vaccine-related complications.

Of course, it is possible that we are dealing with a true, true and unrelated phenomenon. That is, yes, we are living in a hazardous pandemic time. And, yes, these 59 deaths did occur following Influenza vaccination in S. Korea. But, these are unrelated events.

However, I do not think it is wise or safe to only assume that the above narrative is the case.

Rather the S. Korean public health officials, the WHO, the US CDC and US FDA ought to urgently ask and answer the following critical question about the 59 deaths in S. Korea:

Were any or all of the unfortunate 59 deceased in South Korea, carriers of the SARS-CoV-2 virus?

This question could easily be answered by the S. Korean, WHO and CDC public health officials involved, by performing PCR screenings on post-mortem tissues from these dead — and it must be answered with all urgency!

It is very concerning to hear that the South Korean authorities have provided a very general statement about the deaths not being caused by the Flu vaccine, without providing any details. One thing seems to be clear, at least some of these patient did die from vascular or thromboembolic events, which are NOT considered the classical signs of a vaccine adverse reaction.

Certainly, it seems that the South Korean government, and others, are more interested in algorithmically vaccinating as many people, as quickly as possible, against Influenza this year — because they fear a superimposed Flu epidemic on the COVID-19 pandemic. And, as I said, this is not an irrational goal.

But, if in fact, in the process of executing a massive public health immunization protocol, millions of asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers are at risk of getting “lit up like powder kegs”, the Flu vaccination effort, itself, could become many nations’ public health undoing in the Northern hemisphere.

It is also concerning that despite this very loud blip on the global public health radar screen in the vaccine space, the press has gone dark on this S. Korean index event for the past 48 hours. There are no new reports or updates in the media as of 48 hours ago.

I have urgently communicated my general concerns, as an immunologist, regarding a potential adverse interaction between the Flu vaccine and COVID-19 with the FDA and CDC leaderships, since May 2020.

Over the past weekend, and as recently as this morning (10/28/20), I have vocally expressed my concern that the South Korean Flu vaccine associated deaths need to be urgently and decisively analyzed for any association with SARS-CoV-2 infection in those affected — by specifically screening the deceased for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Currently, American leaders at US Operation Warp Speed, FDA’s CBER, and the CDC are aware of this serious concern. Additionally, prominent members of the press in the US, including CBS News, The Wall Street Journal, and The Philadelphia Inquirer are also aware of this concern, as it pertains to the S. Korean Flu vaccine associated deaths.

It is my sincere hope that all public health leaders and the press follow through and clearly and urgently establish if the 59 dead S. Koreans were infected with SARS-CoV-2. This is a moral and professional responsibility of every government and citizen in the world to demand of our South Korean partners during this pandemic year — since it is their approach to compressed and aggressive en masse Flu vaccination that may have unmasked an emerging vaccine related adverse event.

Finally, it is my opinion and recommendation, as a physician and immunologist, that all persons in vulnerable demographic or clinical categories be screened for the SARS-CoV-2 virus prior to vaccination with the 2020 Flu vaccine.

It is the better part of valor for every physician, healthcare provider and public health official to DELAY (OR AVOID) VACCINATING ANY ASYMPTOMATIC CARRIERS OF COVID-19 THIS FALL & WINTER, 2020 — BY SPECIFICALLY SCREENING EVERY VACCINE RECIPIENT, ESPECIALLY IN VULNERABLE CATEGORIES, TO RULE OUT THE PRESENCE OF SARS-CoV-2 INFECTION.

Who are the vulnerable? Those over 60 years of age, those with medical co-morbidities (Obesity, Diabetes, Cardiovascular disease), and those who live in demographically susceptible regions.

In conclusion, because I know that governments and public health agencies are cumbersome and lethargic change agents, at times unable to adjust to information quickly enough, I strongly recommend that every individual person about to receive a vaccination this year, request that they be screened for COVID-19 prior to being vaccinated.

Finally, I will reiterate that the contents of this warning ought not be contorted and used as an argument against vaccination of the population against the Influenza virus. We must maximally immunize the Northern hemisphere’s population with the Flu vaccine this Fall and Winter. BUT, we must do so intelligently, safely and with a careful eye on what the science of immunology predicts might pose a catastrophic risk to many lives.

I write in friendship to global public health and in defense of US national security.

Hooman Noorchashm MD, PhD — for Amy, our children and the others.

Hooman Noorchashm MD, PhD is a physician-scientist. He is an advocate for ethics, patient safety and women’s health. He and his 6 children live in Pennsylvania.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store