How Vaccinations Affect the Developing Immune System
The purpose of vaccinations is to introduce a pathogen (i.e. virus, bacteria, etc.) to the immune system so that a person can develop immunity to the pathogen without having to experience disease.
So how do vaccines work if they do not cause the disease they are intended to protect against? A killed, inactivated or portion of a pathogen (virus, bacteria, etc.) is injected into the body to get the immune system to recognize it, but since the pathogen is inactivated, it should not cause the disease.
So obviously the reaction of the immune system is different to a vaccine than if it were to encounter the natural pathogen in the environment. First of all, the mode of entry of the pathogen is different. In normal circumstances, most pathogens enter a person through the nose or mouth. In most vaccinations, the pathogen enters through an injection, completely bypassing the normals lines of the immune system’s defense.
This would not be a major problem if the injection contained simply a killed or inactivated pathogen, as this would not pose a threat. However, since the pathogens are not a threat to cause an immune system reaction, vaccines contain something called an adjuvant, which is placed in a vaccine to cause a strong immune response.
Most vaccines use aluminum as an adjuvant, which is a neurotoxin that triggers the necessary heightened immune system response. With the immune system in an alarmed state, it then reacts to everything in the vaccine (see “Vaccine Ingredients”), including the inactivated pathogen.
It is a brilliant strategy, as it allows vaccines to manipulate the immune system to develop antibodies to the specific pathogen, without progressing to the symptoms of the actual disease. However, as we learn more about the immune system, we learn there is much more to an immune response than the production of antibodies.
And with that increased knowledge, we are learning that there are consequences that go along with attempting to trick the immune system through introducing a pathogen under false pretenses.
In the late 1980’s cells of the immune system that help regulate immunity called helper T cells, particularly Th1 and Th2, were discovered that helped give a better understanding of immune system function.
Th1 cells help regulate cell-mediated immunity (CMI) which help deal with pathogens that present a threat to get within cells. Viruses for example, which cannot replicate on their own, can only establish an infection by getting inside of a host’s cell and uses the cell’s reproductive machinery to replicate. The cell then bursts open, producing multitudes of newly made viruses.
One of the tools of CMI is the cytotoxic lymphocyte (CTL) also known as the Killer T Cell, which destroys virus infected cells.
Th2 cells help regulate humoral immunity which help deal with pathogens that present a threat outside of cells. One of the main weapons of the Th2 response are antibodies, which can attach to specific invaders and help to be more easily identified by other cells of the immune system such as macrophages and aid in their elimination.
The production antibodies are present in both the Th1 and Th2 responses, as they can also attach to pathogens such as viruses and prevent their entry into cells. However, the antibody response is substantially higher with a Th2 response as there is no threat of the pathogen getting into the cell.
Therefore the normal response of the immune system to pathogens such as viruses would be a Th1 response where there would be antibodies produced to prevent viruses from getting inside of cells, and also a significant amount of killer T cells (CTL) to destroy virus infected cells.
The normal response to pathogens that offer no threat to get inside of cells would be a Th2 response, in which there would be a high antibody response to most efficiently deal with the pathogen.
So what type of helper T cell response do vaccines elicit? First of all, the criteria that researchers look at to determine vaccine response is the level of antibody titers that are found following vaccination. In other words, the higher the antibody response, the more effective the vaccine is deemed to be. What helper T cell elicits the highest antibody response? Th2.
This subject was addressed in a 1995 paper titled “Vaccine strategies: targeting helper T cell responses.” The paper considers the need to elicit the appropriate helper T cell response through vaccination.
- “Vaccine strategies need to take into account the balance of T helper subsets they induce. Th1 cells…are associated with CMI rather than humoral responses, and afford protection against intracellular infections including parasites.”
- “Th2 cells… elicit high-titer antibody responses and poor CMI and are associated with susceptibility with intracellular pathogens.”
- “Once the type of Th cell response that is protective is identified, it may be possible to combine a protein with an adjuvant or link it to a carrier that will promote responses towards the most advantageous Th subset.”
- Although it does not specifically state what type of response is being elicited, the last quote indicates it is not the most advantageous response.
Vaccine strategies: targeting helper T cell responses. Golding B; Scott DE; Ann NY Acad Sci, 754(-VI-):126-37 1995 May 31- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7625646
The fact that vaccines still elicit an improper immune response today is confirmed in this article below admitting not only that vaccines produce an incorrect immune response, but also that the vaccines we use today were developed with a poor understanding of how the immune system works in the first place.
- “Although vaccination has been used for centuries, the technologies are largely empirical with little understanding of the underlying immunological principles and physiological mechanisms.”
- “As researchers gain knowledge of these principles and regulatory authorities become more stringent in their requirements, changes in empirical approaches have become necessary; rational vaccine design is now essential.”
- “The articles in this special feature introduce research on a new generation of vaccines which are logically designed and evaluated. Of particular interest is a new wave of vaccines that induce CD8+ T cell responses — in contrast to the traditional mechanism of eliciting a protective antibody response — and how they may be used therapeutically.”
The Journal of Immunology and Cell Biology, May/June 2009, Volume 87, No. 4, July 2009, Volume 87, No. 5 – http://www.nature.com/icb/focus/vaccine_web_focus/index.html
So again, what type of helper T cell subsets do vaccines elicit? This question was also addressed in a Health Research of Allied Forces Project that examines the relationship between immunological markers of Th1/Th2 cytokine balance, biological warfare and Gulf War related illness.
“Amongst Gulf War veterans, there was a significant trend for reduced levels of the Th1 cytokine IFN-g and non-significant trends for increased levels of the Th2 cytokines IL-4 and IL-10 with increasing numbers of vaccines administered.”
“Multiple vaccine exposure was associated with evidence of Th1/Th2 imbalance in favor of Th2, but since vaccine exposure in the symptomatic and well Gulf war veterans we studied was similar, we are unable to confirm a causative link between vaccines, Th1/Th2 balance, and illness.”
So what the project found was vaccines increased levels of Th2 and decreased levels of Th1. They could not confirm that the imbalance of Th1/Th2 was linked to illness, which means that although they found these imbalances, not everyone presented signs of illness.
So what are the consequences of having a Th1/Th2 imbalance in favor of Th2? The Health Research of Allied Forces Project found “An imbalance of Th2 over Th1 immunity is associated with allergic disease and hypersensitivity and mood changes including depression.”
In a paper from The Journal of Clinical Investigation it was noted “Allergic asthma, which is present in as many as 10% of individuals in industrialized nations, is characterized by chronic airway inflammation and hyperreactivity induced by allergen-specific Th2 cells secreting interleuken-4 (IL-4) and IL-5… Because Th1 cells antagonize Th2 cell functions, it has been proposed that immune deviation toward Th1 can protect against asthma and allergies.”
However, they found that when they attempted to artificially counterbalance Th2 cell-induced airway hyperactivity with allergen specific Th1 cells, it actually caused severe airway inflammation. This finding would suggest that there is much more to Th1/Th2 helper T-cell function and balance through natural infection than we understand at this time.
J Clin Invest, January 1999, Volume 103, Number 2, 175-183 – http://www.jci.org/articles/view/5155/version/1
So in addition to how a Th1 response offers protection to pathogens that pose a threat to get inside of cells and a Th2 response offers protection against pathogens outside of cells, what else do we understand about Th1/Th2 function and balance?
First of all, even though it is understood that a healthy adult has a balanced Th1/Th2 cytokine profile, we do not start out that way. In a healthy baby at birth the Th1/Th2 profile is actually heavily shifted towards Th2.
To understand why this is the case, we must first look at the primary purpose of the immune system – identifying self from non-self. It is this characteristic of the immune system that make each person unique not only from their environment but also from every other person on earth.
One of the immune system cells discussed earlier plays an important role in this function of the immune system – the cytotoxic lymphocyte (CTL) or Killer T cell. In addition to identifying and destroying virus infected cells, Killer T cells also destroy cells that are non-self.
For example, in the case of an organ transplant, the reason an organ is rejected is because it is detected by the immune system as non-self and destroyed by the Killer T cells. That is why it is important to match organ donor with the recipient as closely as possible in addition to suppressing the immune system of the recipient in order for the transplant to be successful.
So what does this have to do with a baby being born with his or her immune system shifted heavily towards Th2? Well, where does baby come from? Mother. Is baby the same person as mom? Of course not. Therefore the mother must somehow allow someone who is non-self (baby) to develop and grow without her own immune system destroying her own child.
Obviously this is allowed to happen, but how? The answer is another amazing and brilliant design in our creation. The placenta, which provides nourishment for the baby, also secretes chemicals (primarily progesterone) which shifts mom’s Th1/Th2 chemical profile away from Th1 and towards Th2.
Why does mom’s immune system need to be shifted away from Th1? It is the Th1 Helper T cells that promote the production of Killer T cells which would destroy cells that are non-self, in this case, the baby.
Therefore the baby develops in a Th2 rich environment and born with his or her chemical profile shifted towards Th2.
So if a normal healthy adult has a balanced Th1/Th2 profile, how does a baby then go on to increase his or her Th1 to achieve this balance? Well, what triggers a Th1 response? An encounter with microbes in the environment that could potential offer a threat of infection by getting inside of cells, such as viruses and bacteria.
Multiple exposures throughout childhood which trigger a Th1 response help to build this Th1 chemical profile to develop the child’s immune system.
What is one sign that a child is dealing with a viral or bacterial infection? A fever. In a study funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH, found that infants who experience fevers before their first birthday are less likely to develop allergies by ages six or seven.
What does this tell us? These fevers are commonly a sign of a Th1 response, and from the NIAID study, with increased fevers (increased Th1) children were less likely to develop allergies.
We find further evidence of this when we look specifically at the measles virus. In 2009, a large study in Europe published in Pediatrics found that children who’ve been infected with measles are less likely to develop allergies.
Among the children who never had a measles infection, those who had been vaccinated were more likely to have nasal allergies. Allergies were less likely in children who had had a bout of measles, but not in those who had been vaccinated against the measles
How then do vaccines work if they do not provide the proper immune response? Let’s use the measles for example. When a child is vaccinated for the measles, instead of having the normal Th1 response for a virus, the child will have a Th2 response due to the vaccine.
Now one of the goals of vaccinating is to create a memory in the immune system so that when a child comes across the measles virus in the environment his immune system has already been trained to have a quick response. Since the immune system has been trained to have a Th2 response, that is the response it will have to the wild measles virus, instead of the normal Th1 response.
This Th2 response will elicit high antibody production. These antibodies will attach to the measles virus which will aid macrophages in identifying them and also will prevent entry into cells. However any viruses that get past the antibody defense and into cells will be able to replicate due to the lack of Killer T cells that would normally be present in the Th1 response.
These newly made viruses will burst out of the high-jacked cells. Since there are a high level of antibodies to these measles viruses, they will again attached to these viruses, tagging them for destruction and preventing them from getting into cells. However, any of these new viruses that get past the antibody defense and into the cells can also replicate and repeat the process over again.
So what we end up with is a chronic measles infection that never actually shows up as the measles. The vaccine has prevented the disease, but at what price?
In 1998 Dr. Andrew Wakefield observed a possible connection between inflammatory bowel disorder (chronic enterocolitis), regressive developmental disorder, and the MMR vaccine.
In 2001 John O’Leary, Professor of Pathology at St James’s Hospital and Trinity College, Dublin, replicated his findings.
Now a team from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina are examining 275 children with regressive autism and bowel disease – and of the 82 tested so far, 70 prove positive for the measles virus.
So what does this really mean? Many vaccines may be effective in preventing disease, but since vaccines cause an abnormal immune system response, it hinders the development of the immune system, resulting in inappropriate responses to normal environmental stimuli.