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Will You Be a Second-Class Citizen?

Will You Be a Second-Class Citizen?
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Autoimmune patients face increased danger with COVID vaccines and the threat of discrimination if they choose not to get vaccinated. Join Our International Campaign!

“Have you been vaccinated?” That question could determine whether you can get into restaurants, movie theaters, schools, workplaces, shopping centers, airports—even neighbors’ homes. This unfairly discriminates against those who have a legitimate medical concern that prevents them from getting vaccinated. A newly released white paper (see executive summary here) from our friends at ANH International lays out the evidence showing that tens of millions of people with autoimmune conditions—or with a genetic predisposition to autoimmunity—are at increased risk for serious illness from COVID vaccines. The US government refuses to recognize these dangers. We’re launching an international campaign to allow these patients to refuse a medical procedure that puts them in harm’s way without relegating them to the status of second-class citizens.

Autoimmune diseases, a group of more than 80 debilitating, chronic illnesses, are estimated to affect nearly 10 percent of the US population. These disorders are characterized by a loss of the body’s self-tolerance mechanism in which the immune system reacts to the host’s own cells. Some of the most common types of autoimmune diseases are type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto’s, lupus, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

Development of autoimmune disease requires 1) a genetic predisposition and 2) an environmental trigger such as diet, toxic chemical exposure, or an infection.

In August 2020, a paper was released from one of the most published authors on autoimmunity warning that COVID vaccines could act as the environmental trigger for autoimmune disease. The authors pointed out that there are 26 common peptides between the COVID spike protein and the human genome. COVID vaccines work by giving our cells instructions for making parts of the COVID virus’ spike protein. COVID infection and COVID vaccination could serve, the authors argue, as the basis for molecular mimicry—when the immune system of immunocompromised individuals (like those with autoimmune disease) cannot distinguish between the virus and harmless cells, attacking both.

In August 2020 those fears were theoretical. When reports of autoimmune-related, life threatening blood clotting events in the brain started appearing in Europe, then the US, those fears were confirmed. These events were dubbed “vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia” (VIPIT) and are thought to be the result of an aberrant immune response to the vaccine.

Attention has focused on the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but there is also a risk of the blood clots from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, since these vaccines also work by telling the body how to make the COVID spike protein. European health authorities recently announced that, of the more than 300 cases of the blood clots worldwide, 25 occurred with the Pfizer vaccine and five with the Moderna vaccine.

Now health authorities are investigating links between the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine and Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), another autoimmune condition. GBS has also been linked with the flu vaccine. Given that, in the case of the blood clots, autoimmunity can develop days to weeks after vaccination, current reports could just be the tip of the iceberg; we may start to see the prevalence of autoimmunity after COVID vaccination increases.

These serious adverse events are a clear signal that COVID vaccination is more dangerous for autoimmune patients. Yet US and international health authorities refuse to warn patients about any increased risk. This is unnecessarily putting lives at risk.

Note too that basic tenets of informed consent are not being met. Informed consent, both ethically and legally, requires that patients be informed by their doctors of the risks and benefits of a medical procedure, as well as alternatives. With COVID vaccines, all many patients get is a fact sheet explaining some of the common adverse events in the fine print. In fact, when the Advisory Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met to discuss whether to lift the “pause” on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following the reports of blood clotting, four of the 14 members voted not to lift the pause on the basis that patients would not be adequately informed about the risks of these events. Their concerns were ignored, and the pause was lifted.

It’s perfectly rational for autoimmune patients to refuse COVID vaccines, but our society is making this an impossible choice. There are (as yet) no government mandates for COVID vaccines, but we’re increasingly seeing private institutions and businesses confer privileges to those who are vaccinated. Churches, synagogues, and all kinds of community groups could also start to require proof of vaccination for participation.

We’re already seeing how this can play out. In Israel, for example, the government issues “green passes” allowing access to social, cultural, sporting events, gyms, restaurants, etc., to individuals who have either recovered from COVID or have had the vaccine. Green passes must be renewed every six months.

There is precedence for protecting certain patients from vaccines. For example, the CDC says that pregnant women, people over 50, children under 2 years of age, and people with weakened immune systems, among others, should not receive the nasal flu vaccine. There is an entire list of contraindications to most approved vaccines. Patients with autoimmunity or at risk for autoimmunity should similarly be excluded from COVID vaccine recommendations.

Too often, the vaccination issue is simplified into black and white, pro or anti. There must be room for a critical analysis of the evidence and common-sense recommendations based on that evidence. We must protect vulnerable patients from preventable harm.

Join our new campaign and take a stand for those with an autoimmune disease:

  • Take Action! Write to the FDA and CDC, telling them to 1) change their current guidelines to warn autoimmune patients or those at risk for autoimmune disease against receiving the COVID vaccine, and 2) include a contraindication for autoimmune patients for COVID vaccines that receive emergency use authorization or full FDA approval. Please send your message immediately.

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