IN early December 2019, in the midst of a measles outbreak, the South Pacific island nation of Samoa ordered a two-day countrywide lockdown to complete a compulsory mass vaccination programme. In a three-month period, nearly three-quarters of Samoa’s 200,000 people were inoculated.
The circumstances surrounding this vaccination campaign, in particular its timing and the use of a lockdown, have given rise to the speculation that SARS CoV-2 (coronavirus) was released during that outbreak using an experimental measles vector Covid vaccine. Measles vector vaccines are measles viruses genetically engineered to contain material from other pathogens.
In a recent post on his popular Substack account, Arkmedic – who identifies himself as an MD, PhD, writing under a pseudonym – effectively asks if a bioweapon was released in Samoa. He is evidently knowledgeable and his posts are usually well-informed and insightful, so the question is, could he be right?
His suspicions stem from a paper submitted for publication in July 2020, concerning a measles vector Covid vaccine which was written by researchers from the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Germany (the government medicines regulator) and co-authored by Dr Ralph Baric, a coronavirus expert from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. They had been developing measles vector candidate vaccines against SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) over a number of years.
Arkmedic also noted that Samoa had no Covid deaths during the first wave, suggesting prior immunity. But it had a higher than normal measles death rate during the 2019 outbreak, leading him to question whether an experimental Covid vaccine had been tested in advance.
It is a thesis I believe to be almost certainly wrong.
Firstly, if the public health authorities involved in the response to the 2019 Samoan measles outbreak are to be believed, all the measles infections were of the D8 strain genotype, which is not the strain used in everyday measles vaccines.
An analysis by Arkmedic of the Ehrlich Institute MV vaccine strain suggested similarities to the D8 strain authorities blamed for the Samoan outbreak, which is supposed to have been imported by an infected person arriving from New Zealand.
Some, but not all, the Samoan measles cases may have been caused by D8 – but we will never know for certain that they all were. In mid-November, just as the Samoans began to intensify their compulsory vaccination campaign, which began at the start of October, the government stopped confirming measles infections using laboratory tests.
It appears to have been a case of not wanting to uncover anything inconvenient to the ‘vaccine good, measles dangerous’ narrative pushed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the US public health agency) and the United Nations.
At the time the genotyping tests were discontinued on November 22, there were 22 deaths. A Samoan government press release on November 27 says 65,000 people had been vaccinated and there were 33 deaths. The toll stood at 42 on December 1, the day before the lockdown announcement. By the time Samoa announced it had achieved the World Health Organisation target of a 95 per cent vaccination coverage rate on December 28, there were 81 deaths.
As explained in my previous article on the Samoan measles lockdown, the high mortality was more likely to be due to a combination of malnutrition and an under-attenuated vaccine – that is, a vaccine where the virus had not been sufficiently weakened before being administered.
Paternalistic vaccination campaigns with awful outcomes are nothing new. In 1970, Dr Archie Kalokerinos investigated a doubling of the infant mortality rate amongst Aborigine children in Australia, acting on behalf of the government of Northern Territory. Malnutrition was a significant problem and in some communities he observed that every second child died as a result of the new vaccine programme.
Speaking of the vaccination teams, he said: ‘I found that they were visiting the reservations, the outlying camps of Aborigines in the desert, and if for some reason a mother didn’t want her child to be vaccinated they would simply grab the child and forcibly vaccinate it. I saw them chasing them on foot, and chasing them in Land-Rovers and grabbing the kids and vaccinating them.
‘Now, a lot of these kids were terribly sick. They were malnourished and everything else. And if they survived the first vaccine, in a few weeks they would come back with booster shots. And then with more and more, and then they would come around with polio shots and so forth. It is a wonder that any kid survived really, not that the death rate had just doubled.’
Commenting on Arkmedic’s post, a Samoan man, Edwin Tamasese, said: ‘What I was seeing personally on the ground was that six to seven days post-vaccination, huge outbreaks were occurring in the villages that the vaccination vans were entering.
‘We were very careful to take statistics when we were going in to try to identify trends. When we assessed our numbers, 98 per cent of those that were getting ill had been vaccinated consistently six to seven days prior to illness.
‘The excuse was that the vaccine did not have time to become effective. However, according to an immunologist on the team assisting, the six to seven-day period was also the length of time it would take an under-attenuated vaccine to make the recipient sick.’
The WHO protocol for giving measles vaccines to children in developing countries, many of whom lack adequate animal protein in their diet, calls for vitamin A to be given at the same time in order to stimulate a greater antibody response.
A November 19 press release by UNICEF, the United Nations children’s fund, shows that it supplied 115,000 measles vaccines, but only 30,000 vitamin A doses. This suggests that not enough vitamin A was supplied for the WHO protocol to have been followed as UNICEF rolled out what is known in the business as ‘supplemental immunisation activity’.
Without a doubt, authorities including the UN and UNICEF capitalised on the Samoan measles outbreak to promote their measles vaccination programme. The question for UNICEF to answer is why so few doses of vitamin A were provided to Samoa.
If the protocol breach was intentional, could it suggest that someone wanted some children to get sick so Samoa could be used as a warning to others not to stop their measles vaccine programmes? A shocking thought. If it was unintentional, they knew the risk and took it anyway.
To return to the measles vector vaccines, what of them? In its 2016 preliminary business plan, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) adopted measles vector vaccines as one of the top five potential platform technologies for epidemic preparedness. The AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is based on the same concept, but it is an adenovirus vector vaccine, which uses a genetically engineered chimpanzee cold virus as the transporter.
Measles vector vaccines were identified as a prospect by the 2016 WHO research and development blueprint, drawn up by an advisory group chaired by British medical researcher Sir Jeremy Farrar. It is listed in CEPI’s 2016 preliminary business plan under the category PREMvac (Pre-epidemic Readiness for Emerging Diseases through Measles vectored Vaccine platform).
The attraction to vaccine developers of a measles vector vaccine is that the current measles vaccine, which uses a live but weakened form of the virus, is purported to be ‘one of the safest and most effective vaccines available’.
Furthermore, as measles is itself an RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus, it can be genetically engineered for use against other emerging infectious diseases. The measles virus itself is believed to clear the body of the inoculated person without integrating into their DNA after stimulating the required immune response.
A 2019 paper in the journal Gene Therapy suggests genetically modified measles viruses could be used as a ‘multigene delivery platform’ so that, theoretically, vaccines manufactured using this platform could target multiple infectious diseases all in one go, which perhaps makes it even more attractive to some in the industry.
In March 2020, CEPI did fund a Covid measles vector vaccine. It was not the one developed by the Paul Ehrlich Institute that Arkmedic spotted. Instead, it was one backed a consortium made up of France’s Institut Pasteur, an Austrian biotech firm called Themis, and the University of Pittsburgh. (Themis was acquired by Merck in June 2020 as it sought to get in on the Covid vaccine gold rush).
This MV vaccine was abandoned in January 2022 because test subjects previously inoculated with measles didn’t stimulate the required adequate immune response to the slightly altered virus. It is a phenomenon known as original antigenic sin.
In conclusion, Dr Ralph Baric’s involvement in the Paul Ehrlich paper is more than likely much ado about nothing. All that is required to be a co-author is to read a paper and make a few comments. The addition of Baric as a co-author simply gave the paper added academic heft.
As the Moderna NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) contracts show, Baric received a prototype NIAID/Moderna coronavirus vaccine for animal testing on December 16, 2019. But the design of this vaccine was not finalised until January 13, 2020, two days after the Wuhan genetic sequence for SARS-CoV2 was released.
Baric had no apparent foreknowledge of the SARS-CoV2 sequence and it seems unlikely that anyone else outside China would have had knowledge of the sequence to manufacture a vaccine – months in advance, given conventional manufacturing timescales – that was delivered in October 2019.
Finally, there is no evidence of a contractual relationship between the German developers of the measles vector vaccine and the Serum Institute of India, the manufacturer of the majority of the vaccine used in Samoa that could explain the fanciful proposition that a European-designed genetically engineered measles virus was incorporated into an Indian manufactured vaccine, to release a coronavirus that emerged in China.