I Get Mail – Pertussis Porkies

“The trickiest thing with this vaccine is something called Original Antigenic Sin. To give a very simplified explanation, the immune response to the vaccine is incomplete and therefore the vaccinated can still carry and transmit the bacteria. This may also explain why vaccination “immunity” doesn’t last as long as natural immunity. What makes it really bad is that once you’ve been vaccinated, even if you later go through the illness, you’ll never be able to develop long-term immunity. Your body has been set to an incomplete immune response PERMANENTLY.”

No. Simply No.

Infections from “natural” pathogenic Pertussis provide immunity for a period of 4 to 20 years.

There is no such thing called Original Antigenic Sin. That is just a term made up by someone who doesn’t grasp vaccines or immunology. The immune system as depicted by this anti-vaxxer simply does not work that way.

Edit – Correction. There is something called Original Antigenic Sin however it doesn’t mean what the anti-vax thinks it means. The Hoskins Effect’s other name is Original Antigenic Sin. This however is alleviated by usage of adjuvants. Which the anti-vax consider to be deadly deadly mind control poison.

A antigen is any part of the pathogen that can be idenitified by the immunoglobulins that make up the active site of a corresponding antibody which in turn marks these pathogens and causes them to stick together into easily managed blobs while attracting the macrophage (or big eating cells if you want it’s technical name).

No Vaccine is 100%. No Seatbelt is 100% either but we still bloody wear one.

See when you say “I will simplify it for you” the idea is that people have to assume you are an expert rather than worse than ignorant. You see ignorant people don’t know. I don’t know anything about Quantum Physics. I am ignorant. You cannot ask me for help with any such problem. I am worse than ignorant if I offer you advice on the topic.

There is no such thing as incomplete “antigens” or “antibodies”. The active site of the antigen matches the antibody and that is what causes the effect.

What’s even more daft is the notion that your body cannot make new antibodies if it already has antibodies to a specific disease. Which is why we are so pathetically weak against the cold and die from the dreaded rhinovirus.

This is just incorrect. It’s pseudoscientific nonsense. Nothing here is correct from start to finish. Immunological Perfection? No. Perfect response to Natural Pertussis? No. Incomplete Immunity? No. This would only work if our immune systems functioned in a radically different way.

And remember this is someone saying that it’s safer to get pertussis than it is to take a vaccine while ignoring the pain, suffering and indeed mortality of pertussis.


  1. Ysanne says

    Thanks Avi. It’s always good to read proper responses to such bullshit.
    (Especially since I live quite close to the part of Australia where the anti-vax idiocy recently led to pertussis actually killing babies, and my in-laws live right in that area.)

  2. Tom Sidwell says

    The comment you’re critiquing is incorrect. The term ‘original antigenic sin’ refers to the tendency of our immune systems to respond to the version of the pathogen we were first exposed to. Because many of the antigens are the same between strains, memory responses to the first encountered strain will be induced on exposure to the second. Because some of the antigens do differ, there can be a delay in the response to the variants carried by strain two.

    So the effect is actually caused by the response being too specific, not incomplete as they state. Since we see cross-reactivity between vaccine-induced immunity and modern pertussis strains, the emailer is using a mis-explanation of OAS to explain a phenomenon that we don’t even see. They should worry more about providing evidence for their central premise before attempting to explain it.

    Since I often come down hard on anti-vaxxers for getting wrong things that take only a 10-second google to fact-check, it would be remiss of me not to comment on how this is an entire blog post dedicated to explaining that an observed immunological phenomenon does not actually exist and is actually pseudoscientific nonsense. Such posts as this, which display ignorance of immunology combined with a snarky attitude just make it easier to dismiss anti-anti-vaccine bloggers as ‘not knowing what they’re talking about’. We owe it to the subject we’re commenting on to do at least the same level of research that we criticise anti-vaxxers for not bothering to.

    Lastly, for over two decades it has been known that co-injection with pertussis toxoid is sufficient inflammatory stimulus to overcome the ‘original antigenic sin’ effect (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2438053). Since we’re discussing a vaccine that includes pertussis toxoid, this renders the emailer’s comment redundant. A similar result was seen recently in a mouse model of OAS (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3427092/) where the researchers found the effect of OAS can be overcome by 1) inclusion of a strong adjuvant on administration of first exposure, 2) repeated exposure to the second strain and 3) strong dendritic cell stimulation during the second exposure.

    So the emailer was wrong to claim OAS is defined as an incomplete immune response (by that logic, every immune response is incomplete) or that its an absolute and permanent effect. However they were still more accurate than the statement that OAS does not exist.

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