Published June 14, 2022
For two decades scientists have been quietly developing self-spreading contagious vaccines. The NIH funded this research, in which either DNA from a deadly pathogen is packaged in a contagious but less harmful virus, or the deadly virus’s lethality is weakened by engineering it in a lab. The resultant “vaccines” spread from one person to the next just like a contagious respiratory virus. Only five percent of regional populations would need to be immunized; the other ninety-five percent would “catch” the vaccine as it spread person-to-person through community transmission.
This technology bypasses the inconvenience of recalcitrant citizens who may refuse to give consent. Its advocates highlight that a mass vaccination campaign that would ordinarily take months of expensive effort to immunize everyone could be shortened to only a few weeks. Scientists have already shown proof of concept in animal populations: in 2000, Spanish researchers injected seventy rabbits with a transmissible vaccine and returned them to the wild, where they quickly passed the vaccine on to hundreds more, reportedly stopping a viral outbreak. European countries are now testing the technology on pigs.
In the wake of the covid pandemic, about a dozen research institutions in the U.S., Europe, and Australia are investigating the potential human uses for self-spreading vaccines. The federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for example, is examining this technology for U.S. military to protect against the West Africa lassa fever, a virus spread by rats to humans. This project, it should be noted, does not require the consent of our military service men and women.
In 2019 the U.K. government began exploring this technology to address the seasonal flu. A research paper from Britain’s Department of Health and Social Care advised that university students could be an obvious target group:
They do not work so [vaccinating them] will not cause much economic disruption and most have second homes to go to, thereby spreading the vaccine.
Researchers admitted a contagious vaccine for an attenuated flu virus would cause some deaths but estimated these would be less than the original influenza virus. As the U.K. government report described:
Self-spreading vaccines are less lethal but not non-lethal: they can still kill. Some people will die who would otherwise have lived, though fewer people die overall.
As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Or in Lenin’s formulation, if you are going to chop down a forest then wood chips will fly. Contagious vaccines are in our future, their champions claim, and are no different than putting fluoride in drinking water. Plus, for those who find jabs unpleasant there are fewer needles required.
Government-funded research of lab-engineered viruses to create contagious self-spreading vaccines that bypass the consent of citizens. What could go wrong?
Aaron Kheriaty is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he directs EPPC’s program in Bioethics and American Democracy. He is currently Chief of Psychiatry & Ethics at Doc1 Health and Chief of Medical Ethics at The Unity Project, and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Health and Human Flourishing Program at the Zephyr Institute. Dr. Kheriaty is also a Scholar at the Paul Ramsey Institute and he serves on the advisory board at the Simone Weil Center for Political Philosophy.
Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash