What’s in a Word?

How the WHO and CDC are redefining the meaning of key public health concepts

Pandemic. The word that describes something affecting all (= pan) people (= demos). But what is that something? According to the World Health Organization, it’s about the global spread of a novel virus that results in “enormous numbers of deaths and illness.” Or rather it was how the WHO defined an influenza pandemic up until 2008. Some time before or during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, the definition was changed and the quoted words about the severity of the impact were removed.

I have written about COVID-19 being a déjà vu of the 2009 swine flu. There, I mentioned the Franco-German TV documentary “Profiteers of Fear – The Business of Swine Flu”, which investigated how the (newly defined) pandemic declaration enabled a global political overreaction with immense financial reward for the pharmaceutical industry. The H1N1 virus was benign and would likely not have qualified for a “pandemic” under the pre-2009 definition. A nuanced round-table discussion of the “elusive definition of pandemic influenza” was published in the WHO Bulletin in 2011 for further reading.

The declaration of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic sure changed the course of human history. With a few well-known exceptions, the world rushed into pandemic response measures that had exactly zero benefit compared to the few hold-outs of cool and common sense such as Sweden, but continue to create social and economic hardship. One of the most concerning observations was recently raised by Rancourt et al. who note a never-seen spike in all-cause mortality amongst elderly that occurred shortly after the March 2020 declaration, which brought sweeping changes to Canadian health- and elderly-care procedures. The authors also alert us to the fact that an unusual number of younger males died in the summer of 2020 during the continued pandemic restrictions.

Herd immunity, the concept that was disingenuously turned into the “let-it-rip strategy” by detractors of the Great Barrington Declaration. Traditionally, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected — not just those who are immune.” So, herd immunity “occurs”, and does so since … the dawn of homo sapiens, I suppose. It’s not a public health strategy, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

How is herd immunity achieved? In the context of SARS-CoV-2, the Mayo Clinic health information outlines two pathways, natural infection (with the politically correct mention of associated risks) and vaccines (with an interesting mention of “protection questions” as one of three issues with this pathway).

Similarly, the WHO used to define herd immunity as immunity “either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection”. Except that the organization changed the definition on 12 October 2020 to “a concept used for vaccination”, including the almost nonsensical sentence “Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it.” The commentary by Jeffrey Tucker, “WHO Deletes Naturally Acquired Immunity from Its Website“, for the American Institute of Economic Research is worth a read if you want to see this blunder dissected some more.

Note that by 31 December 2020, the WHO web site reverted to the previous definition of herd immunity. I was made aware of this when reading a fact check titled “Changes to WHO’s definition of herd immunity haven’t been ‘secret'”, which provides excellent material for my promised blog post on how so-called fact-checkers distort the facts they pretend to be checking. In the latest incarnation of its definition, the WHO did however keep the lengthy explanation of why vaccines are the only “safe” way to achieve herd immunity. Their claim that “vaccines work without making us sick” amounts to gaslighting the lived experiences of hundreds of thousands of individuals whose adverse events were reported to the authoritative vaccine safety monitoring systems worldwide.

Vaccine. Yes, you got this right – they changed the definition of what a vaccine is too. Due to the entirely new biotechnology that the COVID-19 vaccines are based upon, sceptics have preferred to call them gene-based therapeutics, injections, or similar. A singular repeated criticism that our group of Canadian Academics for Covid Ethics received with respect to our letters and commentaries was that we use the term “vaccine” for the ongoing mass inoculations. Now, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adapted this key term to the new reality.

The previous definition, captured here on August 2nd, 2021, from a page last reviewed in May 2018 and probably in place for many more years before that, characterized a “vaccine” as “A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease.” The process of “vaccination” consequently served “to produce immunity”, that is, protection from becoming infected. The new definition captures the mRNA technology and plays down its results. A “vaccine” now is defined as “A preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases.” The outcome of this “immune response” is left completely open. The process of “vaccination” now produces “protection” instead of “immunity”.

Without this change, the non-sterilizing COVID-19 vaccines could not be called that. These concoctions do not prevent the recipient from being infected or from passing the virus on to others. Even Wikipedia currently defines a vaccine as “a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease”, which does not cover the currently marketed COVID-19 vaccines from what I can tell. I have developed some serious concerns about political bias in Wikipedia and would not be surprised at all to see this definition “adapted” soon.

So, what’s in a word? I’m no linguist but I know something about languages, as I speak 2-3 of them and have studied a few more. Words represent concepts, they have meanings and connotations. “Pandemic” embodies an all-out threat to human health and survival. It is associated with an invisible enemy that has festered in the shadows of “animal reservoirs” or even worse, been engineered in foreign warfare laboratories. “Herd immunity”, now also more anthropocentrically called “population immunity” or “community immunity”, is the shield we yearn to gather underneath. Better make that an exclusively man-made protection from inoculation, because how could we trust our magical immune systems, which evolved over thousands (millions?) of years, to serve us another year or two when there is a pharmaceutical preparation to replace it? And to call a prophylactic, experimental gene-based treatment a “vaccine” is a convenient move to be able to label the hesitant as “anti-vaxxers” and push ahead with foolhardy vaccine mandates.