homogenizing herd level antigenic fixation
why covid vaccine driven OAS may be much more dangerous than what we have seen in flu
antigenic fixation is a well studied issue, especially around influenza. how it came to have the oddly religion invoking name of “original antigenic sin” (OAS) is anyone’s guess, but it probably gives you some sense of how long this field of study has been going on.
i have spent a fair bit of time looking at it from the individual level and as a process mediated and accelerated by covid vaccines.
i think we’re well past the preponderance of evidence standard here and have strong reason to believe that covid vaccines have led to omicron as an OAS variant by creating an evolutionary gradient that selected for it.
but there are some reasons to be particularly worried about how this will affect the future at a societal/herd immunity level that we have not explored and i think we need to, because this antigenic fixation generated by the widespread application of a badly leaky or even infection amplifying vaccine is quite different that what occurs in nature.
most OAS is natural. it’s just a property of human immune function in the face of pathogens that mutate a lot. we have seen this same thing in flu. you build up a set of immune responses when you are young and fixate into them.
as you get old and your generalized responses attenuate, you rely upon these learned responses more and more. old age and experience substitutes for for youth and a potent army of generalized immune responders. this is expected and normal.
then, one day, a variant comes along that is similar enough to something you had in the past to trigger the old response but different enough to render that response ineffective.
and suddenly, flu is very dangerous for you. you’re relying upon an ineffective antibody and cannot compensate with a robust generalized response. this is a big part of why flu gets so high risk for the elderly.
but from a herd standpoint, this is not a terribly dangerous issue.
it has limited overall social effects as the fixations of each person are widely varied and depend upon what pathogens they were exposed to in the past. this heterogeneity of herd immune characteristics prevents strong selectors for far reaching OAS variants from emerging.
and this is a VERY important concept.
everyone gets some degree of OAS for influenza. but we get different OAS because we had different exposures when we were young. it was different flus in different places and different times. the imprinting is polyglot therefore the herd has a heterogeneous immunity structure.
this means that when some new viral mutation or throwback finds consonance with a certain kind of imprinted immunity and preys upon OAS, the effects are limited to small groups.
this keeps large risks firewalled and prevents pandemics. flu sort of settles in to a long term average because you are, in effect, rolling lots and lots of small stakes dice all the time. you always lose a certain number of rolls, but they don’t clean you out. you get predictable outcomes within predictable standard deviations.
but in a situation like this where 70-90% of populations ALL got the same narrow inoculum exposure from a leaky (non-sterilizing) vaccine, that's not going to be the case. fixation is homogenous. everyone’s immune system pony has been taught the same one trick.
this may have very serious implications.
clearly, i am starting to speculate and extrapolate here. i’m not sure anything like this setup has ever happened in humans before. these are going to be some scary questions and concepts. i’m not trying to run around like chicken little or over-amplify the risk, but i also think this needs to be elevated to the realm of serious discussion.
so, i’m going to lay out these hypotheses as best i can given the key salients as i understand them and and try to thread the needle between getting to the marrow of the issue and veering into unsubstantiated fear narratives rooted in corner cases.
so let’s think about what it means if we have a large segment that are immuno-fixated in identical fashion with a non-sterilizing inoculum:
foremost, it means that now if there is a mutation that finds a way to take advantage of this specific fixation it has a HUGE cohort to infect.
what might previously have been 2-5% of population at risk is now 70-90%. and that changes everything. now, one bad throw of the evolutionary dice and you have an instant pandemic where none was possible before.
welcome to the high stakes covidian crapshoot.
now buckle up, because this gets much, much worse:
the dice in this game are loaded.
you saw how quickly omicron chased the vaccination campaigns. my strong suspicion is that this was not a coincidence. it was driven BY the selective pressure of the vaccines that took what looks to be a throwback variant that did not evolve from delta but rather diverged from it all the way back at the original pre-alpha ancestor and surged it to sudden global prominence.
omicron is so divergent from other SARS-COV2 variants that some are arguing (HERE in “nature”) that it constitutes an entirely different serotype. (bold mine)
The magnitude of immune evasion of Omicron raises the question whether it should be considered as a distinct SARS-CoV-2 serotype. Here, we discuss lines of evidence in support or against the concept of SARS-CoV-2 serotypes, and the implications of this classification…..
Antigenic cartography analyses indicated that all VOCs except Omicron belong to one large antigenic cluster, whereas Omicron forms a new cluster, escaping vaccine or convalescent sera7,8.
but it is precisely such variants that a society of homogeneously immuno-fixated hosts selects for.
if you have a large pool of hosts that all have the same fixation, then you have a large number of individual labs in which to have such a mutation occur.
the emergence of such variants is inherently a function of underlying mutation rate of the virus (which is high in covid strains) times the number of potential hosts and if the “win” state for virus is the same in all those hosts, then, in effect, all the labs are working on the same problem. you’ve effectively crowd sourced it to 70-90% of the population.
then some mutation chances on a high replication strategy and it goes like wildfire because so many are similarly susceptible.
so you you get a sort of “perfect storm.”
you have far more hosts in which to have random chances occur, all selecting for a mutation that attacks one specific weakness and that weakness is in most of the population, so once it’s out, there is no stopping it.
and if this fixation prevents the hosts from developing strong new immunities based on these novel pathogens, this becomes iterative. you get wave after wave of pandemics until you wipe out the susceptible population.
boosters won’t help, they certainly have not so far. they may well make it worse and drive further fixation. you really cannot live in a constantly immuno-activated state in any event. it’s not good for you and the side and adverse effects will really pile up.
new vaccines may not work either. if an actual pathogen cannot drive immune adaptation, there is little reason to suspect that a vaccine can.
this could be a devilish issue with no solution that seems obvious (at least to me).
so let’s once more be clear: there is a lot here that we still do not know and this is not a proven hypothesis, but this does appear a serious potential issue.
i’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything like it before in human evolutionary history.
this could be with us for for a long time and these pandemics will spread far faster and further than they would otherwise and make it into everyone’s problem, vaxxed or not.
obviously, the public health irony of that one would be unspeakable. (though not unpredicted…)
it’s possible i’m wrong and this OAS issue will fade, but i hesitate to bet on it. generally, once you get this sort of strong response lock, you keep it. beta cells are forever.
it’s possible i’m wrong and that there will be cross immunities to other covids that will help and provide sufficient heterogeneity to act as firebreaks and generate enough functional heterogeneity to short circuit this, but given the way that omicron spread and the manner in which N-antibody immunity development looks suppressed by vaccines, this seems like a difficult bet to rely on.
it’s possible there is all sorts of stuff i missed and have failed to consider here. so let’s keep in mind we’re dealing in hypotheticals and that this is just one feline’s opinion.
honestly, i hope i’m wrong. the public health and public policy implications of this are draconian and dire.
it means we’ll get to play “covid pandemic” over and over with the same agencies and tyrants grasping for power and purpose and with a permanent class of carriers who are going to bear a nasty brunt and share it with the rest of us.
but it looks plausible to me and worthy of discussion. it fits the facts as they appear to me. it’s unpleasant, no one wants to hear it, but truths do not stop being true just because they are hard truths and not all monsters go back in the closet if you ignore them.
or perhaps it’s no monster at all.
so have at it. dispute this and prove me wrong. honestly, i’d be grateful because this is not an outcome anyone wants and i would flat out sleep better if i saw the error in this thinking.
or perhaps someone has a solution i have not considered. rule one of not being able to solve a problem is “show it to more people.” so more eyes are good.
we are, all in this together. so, maybe we could try acting like it. it can’t be worse than what we’ve done on covid so far…
“We were too hopeful this Wouldn’t happen
Nobody ever mentioned OAS”
—Walensky ..sometime in the fall
Your assumptions for why flu is supposedly high risk for the elderly are wrong. Advanced age is heavily confounded by lifestyle factors, which means the effect of immunosenescence is being overestimated by basically all doctors and scientists. Old age often correlates with poor diet, lack of movement, no exercise, malnutrition, deficiencies, no sun exposure, low protein, low salt diets, the use of multiple prescription drugs, having comorbidities, etc. All of that has a negative impact on the different parts and the entire immune system. This is why we could see healthy elderly barely being affected by respiratory infections (incl. SARS-CoV-2) in some countries, while in other places, they were dropping like flies, particularly when it comes to nursing homes. Japan is a perfect example, where the impact of SARS-CoV-2 and/or flu has been minimal in the last few years, despite Japan having 36 million people over 65 and having the oldest population globally. People who claim that age is a risk factor in a causal fashion when it comes to the impact of SARS-CoV-2 are clueless, which unfortunately includes many top and prominent voices, including doctors and scientists on our side.