Geert Vanden Bossche is back and still blaming vaccines for COVID-19 variants
Geert Vanden Bossche is back, and this time he’s blaming COVID-19 vaccines for driving the evolution of more dangerous “escape variants” of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease, that are capable of evading vaccine-induced immunity. As antivaxxers making this argument always do, unfortunately, he ignores the much larger problem in which free circulation of the virus is a far more powerful driver of evolution than the relatively small proportion of the world population that has as yet been vaccinated.
I was perusing the in box of my account for this blog a week ago, when I came across a bit of what I like to call “fan mail.” No, this wasn’t hate mail (which is what a lot of my “fan mail” consists of), but rather an email of the “Won’t you reconsider what you wrote about a crank?” variety. Today, I decided finally to answer, but publicly. The crank is Geert Vanden Bossche, whom I first wrote about in March in the context of an open letter by him that had gone viral warning of global catastrophe if the mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 were not stopped. The reason for his warning was a prediction that mass vaccination would select for more dangerous variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This led a reader (whose name I will not reveal) to ask me whether, in light of the much more transmissible (and possibly more virulent) Delta variant that’s been spreading across the US like proverbial wildfire over the last few of months, I might want to “reconsider” my previous criticism of Vanden Bossche:
I just saw an MSN article about how doctors are terrified of what is coming…I wonder if perhaps you would reconsider your critique of Geert Vanden Bossche. He seems to have been prescient, even if the causes are not exactly as he had predicted. The media loves to call this a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” but other countries have noted a high percentage of “cases” among the vaccinated, while the CDC found that in the Cape Cod incident, 75% of the infected were vaccinated, and, that they were just as likely to transmit the virus as the not vaccinated. If the idea that the vaccinated have very mild illness is true, they are much more probable to spread the illness. For example, they may not recognize their mild symptoms as COVID, and not consider that they, being vaccinated, are able to contract and spread it.
It is also a bit facile that you characterize Vanden Bossche as “anti vaxx.” This epithet seems to be tossed around at anyone who doesn’t suddenly rush out and take the mRNA vaccines. As well, the terms “conspiracy theorist” and “disinformation” get thrown around quite a bit, as if any debate or dissension from the media narrative is either gravely deluded, or perhaps even malicious.
This particular reader cited an article published on the conspiracy website ZeroHedge entitled, Vaccine Expert Vanden Bossche Calls For “Immediate Halt” To Vaccinations, Says They Encourage “Escape Mutant” Variants. Included in that article are two interviews with Vanden Bossche, one by Dr. Chris Martenson for the Peak Prosperity vlog, entitled he Vaccines: Awesome Ingenuity or A Huge Mistake?:
- Aug 27
- 7 min read
Response to attacks from dr. David Gorski
Published on TrialSite (August 25, 2021)
My name is Geert Vanden Bossche. I received my PhD in Virology at the University of Hohenheim, Germany, and I have held adjunct faculty appointments at universities in Germany and Belgium. I also have worked in R&D and vaccine development for GSK, Novartis, and Solvay Biologicals. Next I was a Senior Program Officer for the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Discovery team, and from there went to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) and was the Senior Ebola Program Manager. Then I joined the German Center for Infection Research as head of the Vaccine Development Office. Currently, I work as a consultant on biotech/vaccine issues, and I also do my own research on “natural killer” cell-based vaccines. I have argued that immune escape due to the current COVID-19 vaccines is driving new variants as the virus evolves its way around the inoculation. Dr. David Gorski is a Wayne State University of Medicine (Detroit) associate professor in oncology and surgery. He is also chief of the breast surgery division. Gorski has launched several “hit pieces” about me and my views. In one article, he attacks the notion that vaccines have a part in driving variants. He also has criticized YouTuber/intellectual Brett Weinstein for supporting the use of ivermectin in our pandemic.
Lack of Expertise
In my view, Gorski is both stigmatizing honest scientists and seemingly trying to create socially-dangerous tensions between the vaxed and the unvaxed and between medical experts who hold different views on our current vaccines. Gorski creates false dichotomies wherein one is good (pro-vaccine, put faith in government) or bad (anti-vaccine, open to alternate views and arguments), and this type of discourse and rhetoric is incompatible with science.
Gorski is also largely scientifically illiterate in the fields of virology, immunology, vaccines, and evolutionary biology. He cannot see that both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated are involved in the evolutionary dynamics of the pandemic; his effort to blame the latter category is unfair and potentially dangerous. Dr. Gorski is quick to mix up unrelated topics to create parallels that don’t make sense. He unscientifically conflates or compares data about: live vaccines and inactivated vaccines; epidemics and pandemics; measles and SARS-CoV-2; herd immunity and vaccine coverage rates; efficacy with effectiveness in vaccines; and sterilizing immunity with transmission-reducing immunity.
He also unfairly lumps me in with antivaxxers when I am pro (beneficial) vaccines. Much of this is likely based on the fact that Gorski’s expertise is largely lacking. His professional expertise in breast surgery seemingly does not allow him to opine intelligently about the topics at hand. And he regularly gets tangled up in his own misunderstandings and contradicts himself. Also, he sets himself up as a maximal “pro-vaxer” despite the noted lack of expertise in the various disciplines that apply to vaccination during a pandemic.
Gorski possesses no understanding of the workings of innate immunity, i.e., innate oligospecific antibodies or natural killer cells. He does not know the difference between innate (i.e., polyreactive) and naturally-acquired (i.e., antigen-specific) antibodies. This is clearly reflected by Gorski’s list of ‘factors proposed to explain the difference in severity of COVID-19 in children and adults’. None of these factors could explain why not only children, but any young and healthy individual, could become susceptible to Covid-19 disease only a few months after they got asymptomatically infected. This can only be explained as a result of suppression of protective, innate antibodies by spike-specific antibodies (including vaccinal antibodies) as the latter outcompete innate antibodies for binding to SARSs-CoV-2. Gorski’s list, therefore, is completely irrelevant in regard of the overarching mechanism of natural immune protection against Covid-19.
Contradictio in Terminis
The doctor seems to miss the fact that, “spreading” SARS-CoV-2 relates to infection or pathogens, not to the disease they may potentially cause. Gorski seems to forget that despite the fact that all knew that the efficacy of these vaccines was not 100%, the primary goal of these mass vaccination campaigns was to generate herd immunity. Now, maybe Gorski doesn’t really understand what herd immunity is about, but it suffices to remind him that it relates to the observation that unimmunized people can be protected provided the vaccine coverage rate in the population is high enough to prevent viral transmission. Gorski is trying to make people believe that herd immunity would imply vaccination of the total population, which is almost a contradictio in terminis.
If Gorski is unable to make his point otherwise, he’ll rely on lies:
- I never stated that the emergence of more infectious variants was caused by the vaccines as Gorski pretends
- I never stated that vaccines are ineffective, dangerous and that they make the vaccinated dangerous to the unvaccinated as Gorski pretends
Read the whole article here:
Countering Geert Vanden Bossche’s dubious viral open letter warning against mass COVID-19 vaccination
Geert Vanden Bossche is a scientist who published an open letter warning of global catastrophe due to deadly variants of COVID-19 selected for by mass vaccination. His argument sounds a lot like an argument Andrew Wakefield once made for MMR. There’s even grift likely involved!
David Gorski on March 18, 2021
[Editor’s note:Scott Gavura had circumstances pop up that prevented him from producing a post for today. As a result, I’m posting this. Some of you might have seen it already published elsewhere (although this is an edited/abridged version of the original post). If you haven’t, it’s new to you. A viral “open letter” by Geert Vanden Bossche has gone viral, and antivaxxers have been citing it as slam-dunk evidence that COVID-19 vaccination will lead to global catastrophe. As a result, I thought it worth providing this rebuttal and links to an even better rebuttal, to SBM readers in order to disseminate this information more widely. Enjoy!]
I’ve frequently discussed how in the age of the pandemic, at least in terms of antivaccine misinformation and pseudoscience, everything old is new again. Over the last several months, I’ve listed a number of examples of this phenomenon of antivaxxers recycling hoary tropes to apply them to COVID-19 vaccines; for example, claims that vaccines kill, cause infertility, cancer, autoimmune disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease, and are loaded with “toxins“, among several others, such as the claim that they “alter your DNA“. One such claim that I hadn’t yet seen is another favorite antivax claim, although admittedly it’s a rather niche claim in that you don’t hear it too often. Specifically, I’m referring to the abuse of evolutionary theory by antivaxxers to claim that vaccines select for more deadly variants of pathogenic viruses and bacteria, making mass vaccination programs dangerous or even potentially catastrophic. Such claims are generally an offshoot of another favorite antivaccine claim, namely that the diseases being vaccinated against are so innocuous that vaccinating against them is overkill and allowing infection and “natural herd immunity” to occur is better, a trope that has also been resurrected about COVID-19, a disease that’s killed well north of 500K people in just the US in a little over a year. This brings us to our topic, a misinformation-filled “open letter” by a scientist named Geert Vanden Bossche that went viral over the weekend. It’s been accompanied by a video interview posted to—where else?—antivaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense website. Reading the letter, what it reminded me, more than anything else, is an article that Andrew Wakefield wrote about the MMR vaccine and measles, published a few months before the pandemic hit. (Truly, those were simpler times.)
Dr. Vanden Bossche has publicized his letter on Twitter:
Who is Geert Vanden Bossche?
What’s particularly dangerous about Dr. Vanden Bossche’s misinformation is that, on the surface, he appears to be a vaccine expert, whom antivaxxers touting his open letter (and all the follow-up “science” he’s been Tweeting and posting to his website) have been describing as a “world’s expert” in vaccines. Before this open letter, I hadn’t recalled ever having heard of Dr. Vanden Bossche before, so I looked around. His LinkedIn profile lists several impressive positions, including Head of the Vaccine Development Office for the German Centre for Infection Research (for seven months, August 2017-February 2018); Chief Innovation & Scientific Officer for Univac, where he claimed to be an inventor of a new vaccine technology based on natural killer (NK) cells (2014-2016); and the managing director of VARECO, claiming to be a consultant about vaccine development (2012-present). He also states that he’s worked with GAVI: The Vaccine Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, although searching the websites, I could find no reference to him other than a report written by him and others to GAVI about progress on an Ebola vaccine. He does apparently have some history working on vaccines.
However, Dr. Vincent Iannelli asked the question, “Who is Geert Vanden Bossche?” too and is…unimpressed. And so am I. I searched PubMed for what I expected to be an extensive publication record on vaccines and found…eight publications, the most recent of which was from 1994 and none of which have anything to do with vaccines. However, Dr. Vanden Bossche’s claims to have worked with the Gates Foundation, GAVI, and other vaccine-related enterprises does seem to be legitimate, which makes me wonder: Has he gone crank or is he a grifter?
As I suspected, Dr. Vanden Bossche is selling something. He’s selling his idea of a vaccine designed to activate natural killer cells. It’s hard for me not to believe that he’s grifting, and this demonization of existing COVID-19 vaccines based on speculative science and no strong data yet is a sales pitch. Come to think of it, the similarities between Dr. Vanden Bossche and Andrew Wakefield strike me as stronger than ever now, given that, as well documented by Brian Deer, Wakefield basically published his fraudulent science to support the claim that the MMR vaccine causes autism in order to make a market for his own single vaccine against the measles. Naturally grifters are going to use the same arguments, although I don’t see any fraud in Dr. Vanden Bossche, other than his scientifically risible arguments.
Amusingly, as I was looking this post over earlier this morning for a final edit, I saw that no less a grifter than RFK Jr. himself had published a “rebuttal” to Dr. Vanden Bossche’s open letter by someone named Rosemary Frei, “The ‘Not-So-Hidden Agenda’ Behind Bossche’s Concern Over COVID Mass Vaccination“. Noting how quickly Dr. Vanden Bossche’s letter was embraced by antivaxxers, Frei then writes:
You know what? I think that grifters recognize fellow grifters, and Frei recognized that Dr. Vanden Bossche is stoking fear of existing COVID-19 vaccines to produce a sales rationale for his own NK-based vaccine, just as Andrew Wakefield stoked fear of the MMR in order to support his own measles vaccine. Truly, in the age of COVID-19, everything old is new again, and the antivaccine grift continues.
- David Gorski Dr. Gorski’s full information can be found here, along with information for patients. David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS is a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute specializing in breast cancer surgery, where he also serves as the American College of Surgeons Committee on Cancer Liaison Physician as well as an Associate Professor of Surgery and member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology at Wayne State University. If you are a potential patient and found this page through a Google search, please check out Dr. Gorski’s biographical information, disclaimers regarding his writings, and notice to patients here.
Countering Geert Vanden Bossche’s dubious viral open letter warning against mass COVID-19 vaccination