A team of Bill-Gates linked research scientists have announced they are developing a needle-less vaccine that spreads itself like a virus, meaning people will “catch” the vaccine like they would a cold or flu, without the need for needles and injections.
The research is being subsidised by high-profile funding organisations, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has longstanding financial ties to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
An international team of researchers are working on an experimental self-spreading vaccine that could stop the virus leaping from rats to humans — a phenomenon scientists call zoonotic spillover.
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The drive to develope self-spreading vaccines is not without controversy. The DHSC paper notes: ‘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.
‘The other issue is there is no consent (for vaccination) from the majority of patients.’
But some ethics experts say there are parallels for ‘treating’ mass populations for public health issues without first getting individual consent.
For example, the fluoridation of mains drinking water to prevent tooth decay already happens in some parts of the UK and the Government is considering extending it to all of England.
‘Nobody is asked whether they give consent, even those who disagree with it,’ says Professor Dominic Wilkinson, a medical ethics specialist at Oxford University. ‘Instead, we entrust elected officials to examine the likely health benefits and make decisions based on the evidence.
‘I don’t think that there is anything intrinsically different when it comes to the idea of self-spreading vaccines.’
However, some scientists have serious misgivings about the risk that weakened viruses could mutate into a more potent form once they are free to spread in the population.
Dr Filippa Lentzos, a senior lecturer in science and international security at King’s College London, warns of a danger that the science behind self-spreading vaccines could be hijacked to make biological weapons.
‘Such a self-spreading weapon may prove uncontrollable and irreversible,’ she says.
And Professor Jim Bull, an infectious diseases expert at Idaho University who monitors developments in transmissible vaccines, told Good Health: ‘The big hurdle right now is knowing whether we can make them.’
The Department of Health and Social Care told Good Health that no trial for a self-spreading vaccine ‘would take place without undergoing stringent regulatory and ethics approval’.