Subtleties of Vaccine Science

Vaccines are all designed to immunize against a specific disease. But vaccines also have important non-specific effects. Danish epidemiologist Christine Stabell Benn, MD has devoted her career to studying these effects.

Link to TED talk

Last week, Dr Stabell Benn was interviewed for DrJay Bhattacharya’s podcast.

Everything below (except where signed by my initials) is sourced from this interview.

Innate and adaptive immune system

The innate immune system works via inflammation in response to invasion, and also uses natural killer cells and phagocytes that engulf and dissolve invading organisms.

The adaptive immune system works by producing memory B cells that respond to a specific protein from a specific pathogen. These cells stick around for decades and are ready to multiply exponentially when a new exposure is detected. T cells then come along to attack the pathogens previously tagged by B cells.

Invertebrates have only innate immune systems. Vertebrates (fish, reptiles, mammals, birds, amphibians) all adaptive immune systems in addition.

Vaccines have been designed and tested based on their effect on the adaptive immune system because the adaptive immune system has antibodies that we can measure.

We used to think that the innate immune system was dumb and primitive, while the adaptive immune system was called “adaptive” precisely because it can learn from early exposures to better combat a later exposure to the same disease.

But we now know that the innate immune system is more important and smarter than the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system is capable of learning from exposure, but the “lessons” it learns are less literal, less specific. The innate immune system can learn from one disease to become smarter about fending off other, very different diseases.

Dead and live vaccines

Vaccines based on live, attenuated (artificially weakened) pathogens tend to make the innate immune system smarter and more capable. Their “side effects” tend to be positive, and people inoculated with live, attenuated pathogens are healthier overall, including lower all-cause mortality.

The opposite is true of vaccines based on dead pathogens or based on a single protein from a pathogen (called the “epitope”). They are designed to produce a response in the adaptive immune system, but they teach the innate immune system the wrong lesson. They teach that this invading protein is not associated with a disease, so don’t waste your efforts attacking it. Hence dead virus vaccines tend to make the innate immune system less vigilant.

Live vaccines have a public health benefit. They protect against transmission of the disease. By and large, dead vaccines increase transmission, even if they reduce the risk that a vaccinated person develops symptomatic disease.

Order of vaccines turns out to be important in ways that no one but Dr Stabell Benn noticed. If your most recent vaccine is a live virus vaccine, you are far less susceptible to disease generally than if your most recent vaccine was a dead or protein-epitope vaccine. This has life-saving implications for the childhood vaccine schedule.

Male and female

Girls have different immune systems from boys because they are prepared, someday, to carry a baby with a different genotype from their own. The immune system has to be able to tolerate the presence of a “foreign body” in the womb, and so girls’ immune systems are optimized more for learning, less for a broad, immediate response.

The differential effects of live and dead vaccines are stronger in girls than in boys. For girls, it matters much more that they should receive only live, attenuated vaccines. For boys, this is also a good idea, but less crucial.

Girls have more auto-immune diseases. Boys have more respiratory infections. These differences begin in childhood and persist throughout our lives. [90% of lupus patients are female. — JJM]

COVID is a special case

The mRNA COVID vaccines have been in a class by themselves, producing roughly 100 times more side effects, including death, than the worst vaccines in the past. The mRNA vaccines are not only far more dangerous but also far less effective than vaccines in the past at preventing the illness they were designed to prevent. The vaccines’ protection against COVID fades after just two months, and by 5 months the effectiveness becomes negative, in the sense that vaccinated people are more likely to get the disease than unvaccinated.

As for preventing transmission, the COVID vaccines were never designed to do this, nor were they tested for their effect on transmission before they were mandated for employment, school, military service, etc based on “public health” considerations. One study by me and one study from Harvard School of Public Health have found that vaccination is associated with a higher rate of spread of COVID. — JJM

The reliance on new vaccine technologies as the sole defense against COVID violated everything that we knew about public health. It was a mistake on every front. Repurposed drugs, proven safe in the past, were suppressed while waiting for a vaccine. Then vaccine testing was insufficient and hasty, and was conducted by companies with a financial interest in the outcome. Scientific debate was censored during a time when we needed it most urgently. Natural immunity was ignored, when we know that natural immunity is always superior to vaccine immunity. In fact, the definition of “herd immunity” was changed to exclude immunity of people who had recovered from the disease itself — despite the fact that this had been the basis of herd immunity for hundreds of years of history. Not only did the mRNA vaccines contain no live viruses, they were based on a technology that had previously been shown to be too dangerous for human use. Risk was not stratified by age or sex, even for pregnant women. Vaccines were promoted and even mandated for billions of people at a time when the limited evidence was that they actually increased risk of mortality from any cause. Public health authorities previously had high esteem and a high level of trust, and they have thrown away public trust by their behavior.

Using data published by Pfizer and Moderna from their own studies of the mRNA vaccines, Dr Stabell Benn concluded early that more people were dying in the vaccinated group compared to the unvaccinated group. Taking all effects of the vaccines into account — not just effect on COVID antibodies — the net result of mRNA vaccination was to increase all-cause mortality. (The effect was not large enough to be statistically significant in the trials, where only a handful of people died, but now that billions of people have received the mRNA shots and we have several years’ data in which to look for all-cause mortality, there is no doubt that mRNA vaccines are increasing all-cause mortality. — JJM)

For the adenovirus vaccines developed by J&J and Astra-Zeneca, she found the opposite. All-cause mortality was lower among the vaccinated.  (These were not traditional live attenuated virus vaccines, but they were genetically engineered live viruses, with an artificially-inserted spike protein from the COVID virus. These adenovirus vaccines have been pulled from circulation and are no longer available.)

In another study of the mRNA vaccines, Dr Stabell Benn followed up vaccinated and unvaccinated children, and found that vaccinated children were three times more likely to get colds and flus compared to unvaccinated. Vaccinated children were also more likely to get RSV — a rare disease which is now the object of a new childhood vaccination campaign.


The WHO was notified by Stabell Benn of problems with studies affirming the safety of DTaP vaccines (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis). Ten years ago, WHO commissioned a study to correct these errors, and ten years later no report has yet been issued. Meanwhile, Dr Stabell Benn estimates that hundreds of thousands of girls have died from side effects of DTaP vaccination in Africa alone. (Where is Black Lives Matter when we need them? — JJM)

Personal cost of doing honest studies of costs and benefits

Dr Stabell Benn has had trouble getting her studies published. Sometimes a journal will refuse to send out her studies for peer review, saying only “this study should never have been undertaken.”

She has been the target of attacks, because her findings threaten a very profitable industry. On the other hand, her findings point the way to better, more effective (also more expensive) vaccine programs. “I’ve been attacked equally from both sides. I’m the only person who has been called ‘anti-vaxxer’ and ‘pharma bitch’.”

I became aware during COVID that analysis of vaccine trials was rigged by counting people who died promptly after vaccination as “unvaccinated deaths”, because they had not had the full 6-week interval which their immune systems needed to build immunity. Dr Stabell Benn reported that this is an old trick and it had been used by pharma companies for decades to cook the books on safety of vaccines long before COVID. — JJM

Polio vaccine

What does she think of polio vaccines? The oral polio vaccine is a live attenuated virus, and it has had broad knock-on effects improving public health generally. However, a small percentage of children get polio and are paralyzed after vaccination. This is a trade-off that should be studied so that public health officials can make general recommendations, and doctors can help parents to decide in specific cases whether the risks outweigh the benefits for an individual child.

Which other vaccines are based on live, attenuated viruses?

In addition to the oral polio vaccine, MMR, chickenpox, flu vaccines derive from live attenuated viruses.

Hepatitis B, shingles, HPV, pneumonia, and DTaP vaccines are based on single epitopes, with no live component. — JJM

Of course, generalizations are no substitute for full, independent trials of safety and efficacy for each separate vaccine. Inert placebos are appropriate for efficacy trials, but no placebo should be used in safety trials. Placebos in safety trials are a scam.

The field is full of surprises, and the current trend toward FDA approval of new mRNA vaccines with no human testing, based only on the record of past mRNA vaccines, is criminal. — JJM

“I’m against mandates in any form. Let the data speak. People are smart enough to take a vaccine that is highly protective, and there will be no need to coerce them.” — CSB

5 thoughts on “Subtleties of Vaccine Science

  1. If a region has a high rate of Covid vaccination, it is not surprising that more people die in the vaccinated group. There are far fewer unvaccinated people, so the absolute number of deaths among the unvaccinated group is obviously going to be smaller. Furthermore, those who skip vaccination tend to be younger and healthier and therefore less likely to die. Death rates, not absolute numbers, are the relevant measure and the comparison should be between age and health matched people. Many studies around the world have made these comparisons and they prove absolutely that vaccination dramatically reduces the risk of death.

    • “If a region has a high rate of Covid vaccination, it is not surprising that more people die in the vaccinated group.”

      Of course, but that’s not what I found, not what I wrote in my academic article. What I found was:
      In regions where there was a higher rate of COVID vaccination, COVID spread faster than in regions with a lower rate of COVID vaccination.

    • Jim wrote: [ “Death rates, not absolute numbers, are the relevant measure and the comparison should be between age and health matched people.

      Many studies around the world have made these comparisons and they prove absolutely that vaccination dramatically reduces the risk of death.”]


      That comment sounds as if it was copied right from a pharmaceutical firm’s promotional mRNA vaccine brochure.

      Both my husband and I had COVID-19 very early in its arrival in the USA. It was mild.

      We both were able to work. We are self-employed. We recovered quickly. We did not experience any long Covid symptoms.

      With Natural immunity, we felt no need to sheepishly follow the touted vaccination schedules, not that we would have gotten the mRNA therapy, anyway. Not after doing extensive research about them.

      We were lucky, too, that we and had no work or travel requirements that may have forced us to get the shot in order to move about.

      In the ensuing years, we did not get sick at all. No flu, no infections, no abnormal blood work, nothing.

      Many other healthy people, from their 20s to 60s, that we know who obediently followed the vaccination and booster schedules, suddenly had heart inflammation, strokes, breathing issues, brain fog, clots, constant fatigue, etc.

      It is criminal that the mRNA vaccine was forced on almost everyone in order to travel or keep a job.

      Even the traditional vaccines, have never been forced on those who did not want it because doctors used to recognize that each individual has unique bio-chemistry and some will have a very negative reaction to a vaccine or a medication.

      No vaccine or therapy can ever be a one-size fits all proposition.

  2. Jim, that’s more propaganda and goes against what has happened to the healthiest people from both a medical, and a common sense, point of view. The HEALTHIEST people in all of society were either duped, or in many cases forced, to take an experimental therapy, one that had shown previously to have all manner of adverse effects (in the least). There were many trials on not only “vaccines” for coronaviruses, but also other drug therapies (remdesivir, etc) that flat out were trials immediately stopped due to dangerous side effects and death. Yet all of a sudden, we ignored these studies (which were admitted by most of the CDC leadership) and gave carte blanche to drug companies to produce these new “vaccines” for billions of dollars and complete legal immunity.

    Not only did these therapies not work, and we had safe therapies at the time (thus the EUA violation in principle and common sense), they are quite clearly causing increases in cancers, autoimmune diseases, and all cause mortality. Forgetting that data, which is clear, are you really going to argue that the healthiest people in society had major adverse effects and death, and somehow an elderly person, who is not as robust in health or have as good of an immune system, is going to get a BETTER result from a therapy that causes so much damage in younger, healthier people?

    This is the kind of stuff that is painstaking for those of us who were right from the beginning. What’s more, you STILL haven’t apologized for being completely wrong. It’s sad.

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