To the Editor: Dirk Nies’s Reply

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“Your article is an immense help in generating meaningful discussions with others I care about while helping to avoid the polarizing aspect of the times in which we live.”

I received this comment on February 16 from a reader, a stranger to me. I wrote my January, 2023 “Insights for Flourishing” article with the hope of generating meaningful discussions with others we care about.

And I am pleased and honored to respond to those other readers who have taken the time and interest to write their Letters to the Editor regarding this issue of interest to us all.

In my response, I will address and provide more information about five topics: (1) lack of peer review for the study i wrote about; (2) controlling Covid via vaccination and boosting; (3) public health policies and all-cause mortality; (4) the possibility of mRNA vaccine-induced immune system dampening; and finally (5) my relevant education and experience that Mike Marshall drew upon in making his decision to run my article in the Crozet Gazette.

Concerns about the Lack of Peer Review for this Study

The institutional blessing, the imprimatur of the prestigious Cleveland Clinic to publish this study—conducted in-house by a highly trained, multidisciplinary team of physicians, statisticians, and occupational health professionals—was sufficient assurance to me as to the quality and timely importance of their findings.

The Cleveland Clinic did not have to make their findings known that the bivalent booster is only 30% effective. They could have gone through the conventional procedure of submitting their report to a peer-reviewed journal to review their finding that “the association of increased risk of COVID-19 with higher numbers of prior vaccine doses in our study, was unexpected.” They did neither of these choices. Instead, they put their reputation on the line and made their research available to the public just one week after the study was completed.

Furthermore, some things—such as “the purpose of this study was to evaluate whether a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine protects against COVID-19”—do not require peer review to be certified. The mere fact that the Clinic would find it necessary to study their 51,000 employees in Ohio to see if the bivalent booster vaccine works speaks volumes.

Controlling COVID via Vaccination and Boosting

The Cleveland Clinic’s concern about waning vaccine effectiveness is echoed by Dr. Anthony Fauci in his article published January 11, 2023 in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. He and his co-authors wrote, “it is not surprising that none of the predominantly mucosal respiratory viruses [such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID] have ever been effectively controlled by vaccines. This observation raises a question of fundamental importance: if natural mucosal respiratory virus infections do not elicit complete and long-term protective immunity against reinfection, how can we expect vaccines, especially systemically administered non-replicating vaccines [like the mRNA vaccines], to do so?”

Dr. Fauci goes on to say, “Past unsuccessful attempts to elicit solid protection against mucosal respiratory viruses and to control the deadly outbreaks and pandemics they cause have been a scientific and public health failure that must be urgently addressed. We are excited and invigorated that many investigators and collaborative groups are rethinking, from the ground up, all of our past assumptions and approaches to preventing important respiratory viral diseases and working to find bold new paths forward.”

Indeed.  After stepping down from public service, Dr. Fauci now tells us we need to urgently rethink vaccines, vaccine mandates, mask mandates, lock-downs, school closures, and all our other past assumptions and approaches regarding controlling respiratory viruses.

Public Health Policies and All-Cause Mortality

America is not alone in needing to rethink public health policies. Overly focusing on Covid can lead to negative consequences upon the overall health of the public. In Europe, for example, the rate of death from all causes remains much higher than pre-pandemic levels. Across the European Union, 77,000 excess deaths occurred during the month of December 2022.  This figure is 19% higher than the 2016-2019 average for this month.

Germany leads the pack in this dreadful statistic at 37.3%. Their December 2022 was the worst monthly excess all-cause death toll since the start of the pandemic. It stands considerably higher than its previous monthly high-water mark of 30.9% set in December 2020 when vaccines were just becoming available. All-cause excess death in Austria (27.4%), France (24.5%), and Denmark (22.4%) similarly were very high in December 2022.  In sharp contrast, fewer deaths than normal from all causes occurred in Bulgaria (-6.0%) and Romania (-5.5%) over this same time period.

Possibility of mRNA Vaccine-Induced Immune System Dampening

Immunologists have known for decades that our immune system can be induced to tamp down its normal level of response to allergens and toxins. For example, over a period of years, beekeepers can develop a high tolerance to bee sting venom. This tolerance is facilitated by a specific and unusual type of non-inflammatory immunoglobulin (Ig) antibodies called IgG4.

Lo and behold, a large team of European researchers have discovered a dramatic and unexpected jump in IgG4 antibodies specific to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein arising in the vaccinated and boosted.

In the peer-reviewed journal Science Immunology, Pascal Irrgang and his co-authors reported in December 2022 that “several months after the second vaccination, SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies were increasingly composed of non-inflammatory IgG4, which were further boosted by a third mRNA vaccination and/or SARS-CoV-2 variant breakthrough infections. IgG4 antibodies among all spike-specific IgG antibodies rose on average from 0.04% shortly after the second vaccination to 19.27% later after the third injection.”

To put this finding in context, the authors go on to say that the elevated presence of these unusual IgG4 antibodies is associated with dampening the normal inflammatory response to allergens and toxins.

“High levels of antigen-specific IgG4 have been reported to correlate with successful allergen-specific immunotherapy by blocking IgE-mediated effects. In addition, increasing levels of bee-venom-specific IgG4 have been detected in beekeepers over several beekeeping seasons and finally even became the dominate IgG subclass for the specific antigen.”

Based upon the evidence presented in this study and other studies of a similar kind, I suggested in my article that repeated boosting with mRNA vaccines may dampen the response of the immune system, making ourselves more susceptible to catching Covid. I do agree with the study authors that we don’t fully understand what’s going on here.

“Further investigations are needed to clarify the precise immunological mechanisms driving this response and to evaluate whether an IgG4-driven antibody response affects subsequent viral infections and booster vaccinations. This is not only relevant for potential future vaccine campaigns against SARS-CoV-2, but also for new mRNA-based vaccine developments against other pathogens.”

Dr. Nies’ Relevant Education and Experience

For those who expressed concerns regarding my qualifications to describe the Cleveland Clinic Study and to opine on its possible implications, I offer the following.

I received my B.A. in Chemistry (with distinction) from the University of Colorado in 1974, and my Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Maryland in 1978. While at Maryland, I received a research grant awarded by the chemistry faculty to the outstanding graduate student of that year’s class. Supported by those funds, I conducted part of my Ph.D. research as a Guest Worker at the National Institute of Science and Technology (called the National Bureau of Standards back then).

Early on in my career, after a few years running analytical and environmental health laboratories measuring toxins and drugs in human, animal, and environmental samples, I served as Project Leader for maintaining and updating the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) Hazardous Substance Data Bank (HSDB). In that contractual role, I also served as the Executive Secretary for NLM’s Scientific Review Panel (SRP). The SRP comprises physicians, toxicologists, pharmacologists, biologists, chemists, and environmental scientists. Several times a year, we convened multi-day work sessions, where, with lively discussion, the SRP reviewed our work. After incorporating their comments, we would release the updated version of the HSDB to the public.

Around the same time in my career, EPA tasked me to write Emergency First Aid Treatment Guides. The purpose of these HazMat response guides was to translate complex and technical language into words that an EMT, firefighter, police officer, or other first responder could understand and put into practice.

Since 2012, I have been an unpaid, volunteer columnist for the Crozet Gazette. Over the past decade, the Crozet Gazette has published more than 60 of my essays. Regular, long-time readers will remember my articles first appeared under the banner Science to Live By; now they are found under Insights for Flourishing.

Finally, in response to a query about the meaning of “Floriescence,” I am the developer of this comprehensive, coherent, and rigorous framework designed to promote human flourishing on a thriving planet.  Floriescence is a novel, creative, polymathic synthesis of Science, Ethics, and Aesthetics crafted to evaluate and address both the mundane and the daunting challenges of living well in the context of the 21st century.  I serve as the Executive Director of the nonprofit Floriescence Institute, which I founded in 2014. To protect and maintain our freedom, integrity, and fierce independence from undue influence or unwarranted narrowing of the focus of the work we do, the Institute does not accept funding from corporations, governmental entities, or philanthropic foundations.  For those wishing more information about the public services we provide, please visit Floriescence.org. 

J. Dirk Nies
Blackwells Hollow

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