Why Did The CDC Quietly Change Its Definition Of ‘Vaccine’ For New COVID Shots?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:
    • The CDC quietly changed its definitions for 'vaccine' and 'vaccination' due to new COVID shots.

    • Words like 'immunity' were removed and replaced with 'protection.'

    • The CDC claims they did this because "Right-wing COVID-19 deniers are using your ‘vaccine’ definition to argue that mRNA vaccines are not vaccines…"

  • Reflect On:

    Do places like the CDC cause an increase in the lack of public trust based on their own actions? Or is it simply "right wing conspiracy theorists that erode trust" as they often claim?

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On September 1st, 2021, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its definition of “vaccine” due to concerns that the current definition did not apply to COVID-19 vaccines well enough.

This change has sparked a debate that carries much more real world meaning than many realize; mainly the fact that these vaccines more so resemble a drug, not a vaccine. If that’s true, we are in essence mandating a drug – not a vaccine. More on this shortly.

The CDC’s concerns around the vaccine definition were revealed through newly acquired internal CDC emails via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request initiated by attorney Travis Miller.

The emails show a CDC employee brought forth complaints in August 2021 that “Right-wing covid-19 deniers are using your ‘vaccine’ definition to argue that mRNA vaccines are not vaccines…”

The CDC’s Lead Health Communication Specialist escalated the issue to propose changes to the definitions stating: “I need to update this page Immunization Basics | CDC since these definitions are outdated and being used by some to say COVID-19 vaccines are not vaccines per CDC’s own definition.”

They received no response and pushed further in an email the following week: “The definition of vaccine we have posted is problematic and people are using it to claim the COVID-19 vaccine is not a vaccine based on our own definition.”

A change of definition for “vaccination” was approved August 31st, and a change of definition for “vaccine” on September 1st.

Very comparatively, we can see the earlier CDC definition for ‘vaccine’ and ‘vaccination’ (August 26th, 2021):

Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

Vaccination: The act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease.

And now the current CDC definition for ‘vaccine’ and ‘vaccination’ since September 1, 2021:

Vaccine: A preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but some can be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

Vaccination: The act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce protection from a specific disease.

The definition around vaccines has been a hot debate since mRNA COVID vaccines showed up in 2020. This is a complex conversation with multiple layers, but I will keep this simple so we can derive real world meaning.

Let’s look at two pathways of thought to explore what could be happening here. This discussion can be broken down into two pathways.

  1. People argue these are not vaccines because they use mRNA technology and some think they are ‘gene therapy’ as a result. ‘Vaccines’ on the other hand, use bits of attenuated virus instead.

  2. These are not vaccines because they don’t prevent infection or stop transmission. An argument that could only be well made in recent months as the waning of vaccine effectiveness became clear.

The first argument can be broken down further. Path 1.a. is semantical and takes issue with the mechanism for gaining immunity. Instead of attenuated virus creating immunity, we have mRNA, but just because the technology changes, should a new name be created?

You could make a like comparison and say: If you wanted to make a telephone call in the past you’d pick up a receiver, dial a number and ask to be connected to who you’re trying to reach. Operators would connect lines via switch boards and data would be sent through phone lines to connect communicators. Now, calls are made through ‘invisible’ connections with the help of satellites.

Are phones no longer phones? Are phone calls supposed to be called something different now?Not necessarily. We’ve kept the word we use, yet updated the definition of it based on the change in technology behind how we do something.

Path 1.b. might be to say that manufacturers simply used the definition of ‘vaccine’ for an injectable gene therapy so they could pass the regulatory process more quickly. That’s a deeper conversation.

With argument number 2, there is something very obvious to be discussed. Looking again at the CDC’s definition of vaccination prior to Sept 1st, 2021: “A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease.”

The word immunity is present here, whereas in the new definition, that word is changed to ‘protection.’ Did the CDC change its definition of vaccine because the products they approved simply doesn’t provide immunity?

Might we be more clear in saying that these new vaccines, by definition, are more of a drug that is injected vs a vaccine since we know it is about offering protection against severe disease, not immunity?

This is where I believe there is strength in this discussion because we are now talking about a real world implication. If we assume that these vaccines much more closely resemble drugs as opposed to vaccines, and the prior definition makes this clear, then what we are seeing is the mandating of drugs right now.

This is VERY different than mandating a product that offers immunity. We are now seeing a massive cultural change in how we are mandating pharmaceuticals. We are moving from mandating something that stops infection and transmission, to mandating something that doesn’t stop infection or transmission, but reduces disease severity for a short period of time.

Getting clear on this is important as now we are able to ask questions like: is the CDC changing the definition, not because the technology is different, but because they actually want to mandate a drug, not a vaccine? Where does this lead next in terms of mandating drugs?

Expecting to get a straight answer from the CDC on these questions is naive. Just look at CDC director Rochelle Walensky refusing to answer simple questions from US Senator Bill Cassidy about what percentage of CDC employees are vaccinated. All we get from Walensky are PR statements, no clear answers.

Ignoring the decades worth of CDC corruption and collusion with Big Pharma would be a mistake as well. The CDC has long been shown to have major conflicts of interest when it comes to certain drugs and vaccines, and yet very little has been done to change this. Many argue that these conflicts of interest impact their recommendations.

From a strict business perspective, this pandemic was a massive opportunity for pharmaceutical profiteering, and the CDC was happy to play ball in my opinion. Going as far as changing definitions of their products to match the policy they need in place to help their Pharma partners. This is, at the very least, something we must consider as possible.

Seeing a change in definitions, a lack of clarity from the CDC, and distortion of data throughout the pandemic, all results in a loss of public trust. Instead of good reason, the CDC will brush off their actions as necessary to stop the ‘anti-whatevers.’ In support, The New York Times will agree with the CDC, the Washington Post will follow along, and the truth will hide in darkness a little longer.

An inspiring outcome should not be lost, however. We do see the power of an engaged citizenry pushing back on public policy. It is fascinating to see the CDC try to change their own definitions of a product to match the lack luster performance of the products they approved – and they aren’t getting away with it.

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