In 2017, The Vaccine Reaction presented the first TVR Golden Fleece award for the “strangest vaccine in the pipeline” to the so-called “Flab Jab” vaccine—a proposed vaccine for obesity, aimed at suppressing growth hormones that boost metabolism, thus, theoretically, resulting in weight loss. It was the idea for a vaccine that most caused us to pause and rhetorically ask the question, “Are they serious?”1
As the word vaccine has increasingly become synonymous with the words medication or medicine, the possibilities for coming up with new vaccines for any disease, illness, or disorder imaginable have grown limitless. Vaccines have been proposed for everything from acne, high cholesterol and cocaine addiction to stress, high blood pressure, bad breath and, yes…. even obesity.1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Vaccines were traditionally developed to prevent infectious disease. But that paradigm has changed, as vaccines are increasingly being developed for use as a therapeutic treatments like antibiotics and other drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has cleverly invented the idea of therapeutic vaccines. So now, if you have a health condition—regardless of how mild or harmless—there is probably a company or laboratory somewhere in the world developing or envisioning a vaccine for it. It is an innovative business strategy with seemingly endless potential for sales revenue.1
In examining a number of top candidates for the 2018 TVR Golden Fleece award, we strongly considered a vaccine for the common cold proposed by Martin Moore, PhD at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. After all, according to the Immunity Education Group:
Catching colds is necessary because it makes a child’s immune system stronger so it can fight severe infections and serious diseases like cancer, and prevent allergic disorders like asthma and eczema. So why would a university professor think it’s a good idea to develop a vaccine for children against the common cold?9 10
We looked carefully at a vaccine for alcoholism under development by scientists at the University of Chile in Santiago.11 12 We also considered a program to develop a “behavioral vaccine” for teen depression by a research team at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago. Lastly, we reviewed an effort to develop a vaccine to cure pedophilia undertaken by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.13 14
Each of these ideas for “vaccines” struck us as odd and not at all what smallpox and other vaccines were designed to do, namely to prevent pathogenic viral and bacterial diseases from being transmitted from person to person. The concept of a vaccine has become corrupted and, thus, meaningless. This is why there are now people who wonder why there can’t be “vaccines for everything.”
In fact, that is the title of a recent article in The New York Times by Donald G. McNeil Jr.: “Why Don’t We Have Vaccines Against Everything?”15
In his article, McNeil listed more than a dozen diseases for which there are no vaccines. He said that in a “rational world” the amount of money spent on vaccine research would “rival that on defense research.” The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) spends more than $75 billion a year on research and development (R&D). It takes about $100 million a year to develop a vaccine over a 10-year period.15 16 17
McNeil noted that there are two obstacles to faster progress in the development of new vaccines. He quoted vaccinologist Gregory Poland, MD of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota who said, “One is scientific, and one is embarrassing.” The “embarrassing part,” wrote McNeil, is the “lack of investment.”15
With the kind of funding McNeil is advocating, the pharmaceutical industry would be able to develop at least 750 new vaccines by 2028. Essentially, McNeil is suggesting that vaccines can be the cure to anything that ails, bothers or even mildly annoys us, and that the only limit to the number and type of vaccines that could be developed lies in our ability to imagine applications for them.
In McNeil’s view, there can never be too much of a good thing. In this case, there can never be too many vaccines.
No such thing as over-vaccination? Ever? We find that hard to believe. We think it’s a numbskull idea, and that is why we choose the “A Vaccine for Everything” proposal as the winner of our 2018 TVR Golden Fleece award.
1 Cáceres M, Fisher BL. Obesity Vaccine Wins First TVR Golden Fleece Award. The Vaccine Reaction Apr. 22, 2017.
2 Samadi DB. Vaccinations: Not just for disease prevention anymore. Fox News Apr. 24, 2012.
3 Carey T. Vaccine that could end the misery of acne for millions of teenagers. The Daily Mail Nov. 11, 2011.
4 Kinsey BM, Kosten TR, Orson FM. Anti-cocaine vaccine development. Expert Rev Vaccines 2010; 9(9): 1107-1114.
5 Sifferlin A. A New Vaccine Could Prevent High Cholesterol, Study Suggests. TIME Nov. 11, 2015.
6 Lehrer J. Under Pressure: The Search for a Stress Vaccine. WIRED July 28, 2010.
7 Keeffe P. Vaccine for High Blood Pressure May Be in the Works. Healthline News May 26, 2015.
8 Liu PF, Huang IF et al. Halitosis vaccines targeting FomA, a biofilm-bridging protein of fusobacteria nucleatum. Curr Mol Med 2013; 13(6): 1358-1367.
9 Immunity Education Group. Seriously. A Vaccine for the Common Cold? The Vaccine Reaction Nov. 7, 2018.
10 Moore J. Tired of the common cold? A new vaccine could prevent it. WSBTV Nov. 3, 2017.
11 Hsu C. “Alcoholism Vaccine”; Gives Drinkers Instant Hangovers After Just One Sip. Medical Daily Jan. 28, 2013.
12 Salazar C. Chilean Researchers Working on Alcoholism Vaccine. Fox News Jan. 7, 2011.
13 ‘Behavioral vaccine’ for teen depression. American Hospital Association Sept. 20, 2017.
14 Malm S, Macrae F. Scientists begin trials on a CURE for paedophilia: Cancer drug could rid men of ‘unwanted’ sexual urges towards children. Daily Mail May 9, 2016.
15 McNeil DG. Why Don’t We Have Vaccines Against Everything? The New York Times Nov. 19, 2018.
16 Donnelly JM. Defense to Get Historically High Share of Research Budget. Roll Call Aug. 3, 2017.
17 Freedberg SJ. DoD R&D Soars 24%, Procurement Up 15%; Army Up Most. Breaking Defense Feb. 12, 2018.