Pfizer Couldn’t Pay for Marketing This Good

On June 3, 2021, a roughly 60-year-old man within the riverside metropolis of Magdeburg, Germany, acquired his first COVID vaccine. He opted for Johnson & Johnson’s shot, standard at that time as a result of not like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines, it was one-and-done. However that, evidently, was not what he had in thoughts. The next month, he acquired the AstraZeneca vaccine. The month after that, he doubled up on AstraZeneca and added a Pfizer for good measure. Issues solely accelerated from there: In January 2022, he acquired no less than 49 COVID pictures.

A couple of months later, staff at a neighborhood vaccination heart thought to themselves, Huh, wasn’t that man in right here yesterday? and alerted the police. By that time, the German Press Company reported, the person had been vaccinated as many as 90 instances. And nonetheless he was not completed. As of November, he mentioned he’d acquired 217 COVID pictures—217!

That’s in accordance with a brand new paper printed in The Lancet. After German researchers realized of the person from newspaper articles, they managed to contact him through the general public prosecutor investigating the case. He was “very ” in taking part in a examine Kilian Schober, an immunologist at Uniklinikum Erlangen and a co-author on the paper mentioned in a press release. They pieced collectively his vaccination timeline by way of interviews and medical information, and picked up blood and saliva samples to look at the immunological results of “hypervaccination.”

The person’s identification hasn’t been revealed, and within the paper he’s referred to solely as “HIM” (seemingly an acronym, although what it stands for is just not specified). He’s hardly the world’s solely hypervaccinated particular person. A retired postman in India had reportedly acquired 12 pictures by January 2022 and advised The New York Instances, “I nonetheless need extra.” A New Zealand man, in the meantime, allegedly racked up 10 in a single day. However pause for a second and contemplate the sheer logistics of HIM’s feat. In all, he acquired his 217 vaccinations over the course of just below two and a half years, which comes out to a mean of seven and a half pictures a month, though the distribution was removed from even. For a number of weeks in early 2022, he acquired two pictures almost daily. He appears to have had a powerful choice for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, however he additionally acquired no less than one shot of AstraZeneca and Sanofi-GSK and, in fact, Johnson & Johnson.

Why? you may surprise. The paper itself elides this query, saying solely that he did so “intentionally and for personal causes.” Maybe the obvious rationalization can be excessive, most likely pathological COVID anxiousness. Information experiences from April 2022 provide one other doable rationalization: that he did so to promote the vaccination playing cards. However German prosecutors didn’t deliver expenses as soon as HIM’s scheme was uncovered, and he continued getting pointless pictures.

Getting 217 COVID pictures could be very a lot not the public-health steering in Germany or anyplace else. But the technique seemingly panned out: HIM has by no means contracted COVID, researchers concluded based mostly on antigen assessments, PCR assessments, and bloodwork. “For those who ask immunologists, we would have predicted that it could be not helpful to do that,” Cindy Leifer, an immunologist at Cornell College who wasn’t concerned with the Lancet examine, advised me. They may have anticipated the fixed motion to exhaust the immune system, leaving it weak to precise viral threats. However such worries got here to nothing.

Nonetheless, immunologists cautioned towards inferring any sturdy causal connection. He prevented the virus; he acquired vaccinated 217 instances. He didn’t essentially keep away from the virus as a result of he acquired vaccinated 217 instances. In reality, the authors wrote, though hypervaccination appears to have elevated the amount of antibodies and T cells that HIM’s physique produced to fend off the virus—even after 216 pictures, the 217th nonetheless produced a modest improve—it had no actual impact on the high quality of the immune response. “He would have been simply as properly protected if he had gotten a traditional variety of three to 4 vaccinations,” Schober advised me.

Nor did hypervaccination result in any opposed results. By shot 217, one might need anticipated to see a number of the uncommon unintended effects related to the vaccines, akin to myocarditis, pericarditis, or Guillain-Barré Syndrome, however so far as researchers might inform, HIM was utterly superb. Remarkably, he didn’t even report feeling minor unintended effects from any of his 217 pictures. On some degree, this makes complete sense: As Schober fairly identified, HIM most likely wouldn’t have gotten all these pictures if every one had knocked him out for a day. Truthful, however nonetheless: 217 pictures and no unintended effects? How?

If nothing else, HIM is one hell of an commercial for the vaccines. Anxious about unintended effects out of your third booster? Effectively, this man’s gotten greater than 200, and he’s a-okay. Travis Kelce has been referred to as Mr. Pfizer, however he’s acquired nothing on HIM. Scientifically, issues are considerably murkier. The outcomes of the HIM examine have been largely unsurprising, researchers advised me, however the mysteries on the margins—such because the absence of any unintended effects—are reminder that 4 years after the pandemic started, immunology continues to be, as my former colleague Ed Yong wrote, “the place instinct goes to die.”

On the finish of the paper, the authors are very clear: “We don’t endorse hypervaccination as a technique to boost adaptive immunity.” The takeaway, Leifer mentioned, shouldn’t be the extra pictures, the higher. Schober advised me he even tried to personally convey this message to HIM after his 216th shot. “From the underside of my coronary heart as a medical physician, I actually advised him that he shouldn’t get vaccinated once more,” Schober mentioned.

HIM appeared to take this recommendation significantly. Then he went and acquired shot No. 217 anyway.

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