A recent report in National Geographic describes how international research groups are attempting to design ‘self-spreading’ genetically engineered vaccines that can jump from vaccinated to unvaccinated populations. Receiving only scant attention in the mainstream media, the approach carries long-term risks that are essentially both unpredictable and irreversible. As is similarly the case with the so-called ‘gain-of-function’ research that has been implicated in causing COVID-19, the existence and use of this technology should be openly addressed by governments as a matter of urgency.
Carried out with the supposed aim of stopping wildlife from spreading Ebola, rabies, and other dangerous viruses, the experiments are claimed to be seeking to prevent future global pandemics by blocking the jumping of pathogens from animals to humans. Because animals living in the wild are difficult to vaccinate in large numbers, the idea behind the technology is to design vaccines that, after administration to small groups, would spread quickly and easily to other animals.
Independent scientists are far from being universally convinced the idea is a good one. Jonas Sandbrink, a biosecurity researcher at the University of Oxford in the UK, has expressed particular concern. “Once you set something engineered and self-transmissible out into nature, you don’t know what happens to it and where it will go,” he says. “Even if you just start by setting it out into animal populations, part of the genetic elements might find their way back into humans.”
While it is being claimed for now that such vaccines would never deliberately be administered to people, the experience of the past two years has taught us how policies that might once have been thought unthinkable, such as imposing draconian lockdowns and the mandatory use of experimental gene-based vaccinations, have quickly become employed by governments as standard public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. With authoritarian forms of governance seemingly on the rise in this way, to trust that self-spreading vaccines would never be applied to humans would clearly be naïve.
Moreover, given that the ’official’ explanation for the emergence of COVID-19 posits that the SARS-CoV-2 virus supposedly crossed over to humans from an (unknown) animal, logic dictates that regulatory authorities could therefore not rule out the possibility that a virus-based self-spreading vaccine administered to animals might similarly cross over to humans. Nor either can anyone be certain that the release of such a vaccine in the wild would not set off an unexpected chain of events producing catastrophic effects across multiple ecosystems.
There are also some fundamental legal questions to be considered as, once used, virus-based self-spreading vaccines would be impossible to contain within a country’s own borders. As a result, countries opposed to their use may still end up suffering their effects. A vaccine utilized in one country could easily affect entire continents.
Nevertheless, despite the incalculable risks involved, National Geographic reports that field experiments involving inoculating animals with a Lassa virus self-spreading vaccine are already expected to commence within the year. Politicians and policy makers need to recognize the potential risks of this disturbing technology before it’s too late.