Over the last two or three weeks, I have sensed a disturbance in the Dark Side of the Force on social media, specifically that branch of the Dark Side that consists mainly of the antivaccine movement, specifically that part of the antivaccine movement most focused on demonizing COVID-19 vaccines. Perhaps you, too, have sensed it. There is a new word being applied to COVID-19 vaccines, the better to portray them as horrifically compromised, and that word is “adulteration.” It’s a new spin on a very old antivax trope, namely the “toxins gambit,” in which antivaxxers going back to time immemorial have tried to portray vaccines as disgusting witches’ brews of nastiness full of horrible “toxins“, a variant being the claim that vaccines have “fetal cells” or “fetal DNA” in them and are thus horrifically contaminated. Heck, that last one has even been used by antivaxxers about COVID-19 vaccines! (Also, don’t forget that the lipid nanoparticles in COVID-19 vaccines, if you believe antivaxxers, are also horrifically toxic—and sterilize our womenfolk, too.)
The latest variant of the “toxins gambit”—if you’ll excuse my reference to Marvel’s Loki—has consisted of fear mongering about residual plasmid DNA in the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines, complete with sequences from the dreaded SV40 promoter, which sounds a lot like the SV40 virus that contaminated batches of oral polio vaccines over 60 years ago and, because the virus is oncogenic in some cells, led to fears of a wave of cancer over the decades after. Fortunately, that wave of cancer never appeared, and no increase in cancer due to SV40 contamination of those batches of oral polio virus six decades ago was ever detected in epidemiological studies. I swear, there’s so much bad science and fear mongering about fragments of plasmid DNA that remain in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines at concentrations far below what regulatory agencies consider allowable and safe (awful science by people like Kevin McKernan notwithstanding) that it makes me wonder how we could train so many supposed molecular biologists who are so clueless about, you know, molecular biology.
In any case, over the last few months, the variant of the “toxins gambit” that’s been promoted has been that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are “contaminated” with dreaded plasmid DNA that might somehow integrate into your genome and cause “turbo cancer” by disrupting tumor suppressor genes…or something. (Whatever they do, according to antivaxxers they’re horrible because they somehow “permanently alter your DNA! Hint: They don’t.)
Towards the latter half of last month, I started noticing a twist on the old antivax false talking point that the vaccines are so hopelessly contaminated with plasmid DNA leftover from the manufacturing process that they are dangerous, cause “turbo cancer,” and all sorts of other mean and nasty things and that twist has been to stop using the word “contamination” and instead to start using the word “adulteration” and describe the vaccines as “adulterated.” One of the earlier examples of this spin came from—who else?—that tech bro turned into the most rabid of antivaxxers, Steve Kirsch, who a couple of weeks ago posted an article to his Substack entitled The vaccines are adulterated. The FDA should take them off the market. New court ruling shows how vax manufacturers are liable. No need to read the post, as it’s basically a brag about how much engagement a Tweet/Post on the platform formerly known as Twitter that Mr. Kirsch had garnered by saying:
The origin of the claim that the vaccines are “adulterated” seems to come from the video that Mr. Kirsch posted to his Substack the next day in a post entitled Exclusive: Video interview with 3 experts reveals evidence that the drug companies knew about the SV40 promoter, yet decided to conceal it from the regulators., in which he interviewed Byron Bridle, Kevin McKernan, and Chris Martenson. Let’s just say, a brain trust, this is not. Also, wait, what? No Robert Malone? No Peter McCullough? (I couldn’t help but wonder.)
But why use the word “adulteration”? Likely, someone stumbled upon it with respect to the FDA, which is specially tasked making sure that food and drugs are not adulterated.” If you look at the history of the FDA, guarding against adulteration is one of its primary missions; so by using the word “adulteration” or “adulterated,” antivaxxers are invoking a specific responsibility tasked to the FDA from the very beginning of its existence. Indeed, a couple of days later Dr. Robert Malone specifically invoked this FDA responsibility in a Substack post entitled What is Adulteration of pseudo-mRNA vaccines, and why should you care? The intent of the messaging doesn’t get much more obvious than this:
The FDA’s job is to ensure that drugs, vaccines, medical devices and foods are not adulterated. The remedy for adulteration is immediate recall and seizure if necessary.
And, after citing McKernan’s awful science in which he cherry picked a method of measuring DNA in the COVID-19 vaccines that produced unbelievably high values, mainly because he didn’t control for crossreactivity with the much higher amount of RNA in the vaccines, Malone continued:
According to the US Congress, Adulteration is defined (in CFR Title 21, CHAPTER 9, SUBCHAPTER V § 351) as follows (partially redacted for focus and simplification):
From this, antivaxxers have striven mightily to demonstrate that leftover fragments of plasmid DNA, which were reported to various regulatory agencies, constitute “adulteration” and thus mandate immediate removal of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines from the market. Indeed, Dr. Malone makes that explicit later in his post:
First, as discussed above, it is my expert professional opinion that, to the best of my knowledge (assuming the data and facts reviewed above to be true) that the products tested by Speicher et al meet the formal regulatory criteria for adulteration.
Secondly, it is my expert professional opinion that, to the best of my knowledge (assuming the data and facts reviewed above to be true) that the products tested by Speicher et al represent a significant risk of health hazard.
That’s all well and good, but Dr. Malone is an antivax crank and conspiracy theorist. Actual experts in drug safety regulation do not agree. But what the heck? Let’s see what antivaxxers are claiming. Conveniently enough, earlier this week Dr. Malone posted a followup entitled mod-mRNA “Vaccines”, DNA Fragment Risks, with the subtitle Don’t give me no lies and keep your strands to yourself. Hilarious.
“Adulteration”: Heavy lifting indeed
Before I delve into Dr. Malone’s article more, I note that it’s just another variant—whoops, there I go again!—of the claim that the ever-deluded Mr. Kirsch made, in which the term “adulteration” is made to do some seriously heavy lifting:
Health Canada did *NOTHING* to stop the vaccines after admitting the vaccines contain an active ingredient that they were never notified existed and have no clue how damaging it is. They aren’t going to stop the vaccine, they aren’t going to warn the public. And they certainly are not going to do the research into the harms being done. Nor will they even ask the drug companies to do the research. They are simply going to act like it didn’t happen and make sure that the press doesn’t write about it so nobody will know. They just want the whole mistake to go away and their hope is by ignoring it, it will just “disappear.”
Which brings us to Dr. Malone’s “take” (if you can call it that) on the “adulteration” issue in the “executive summary” of his post:
After three years of drug manufacturers and regulatory agencies insisting the COVID shots were safe, study findings by independent scientists now demonstrate that certain modified-mRNA shots may meet or exceed regulatory standards for “adulteration” with DNA fragments. In the case of the Pfizer/BioNTech product, these fragments appear to include DNA of a particular sequence (SV40 origin-enhancer-promoter) which is biologically active in animal cells. The presence of SV40-derived DNA fragments was not fully disclosed by the manufacturers to regulatory authorities.
This lack of transparency raises serious questions about how these fragments and specific DNA sequences escaped regulatory consideration, and why the presence and risks of significant amounts of SV40- and bacterial-derived small DNA fragments were not discussed by the manufacturers in documents submitted to regulators. The study’s findings have been replicated by other scientists prompting several international medical organizations to call for the immediate recall of all COVID shots.
One thing that I failed to emphasize as much in my previous posts about the “plasmid DNA contamination”—or should I say, “adulteration”?—of COVID-19 vaccines is that there is no SV40 promoter sequence in the plasmid used by Moderna to generate the mRNA for its SpikeVax. It’s only in the plasmid used by Pfizer to generate the mRNA for its Comirnaty vaccine. As an aside, I can’t help but wonder, then, why McKernan and his merry band of antivax molecular biologists fear monger pretty much equally about both vaccines? After all, the Moderna vaccine doesn’t even have SV40 sequences in it—not a single one! Even Dr. Malone admits this!
I also note that some of us have been wondering why Pfizer chose to include an SV40 promoter in the plasmid. SV40 is, as I have mentioned many times before, a strong promoter that drives a lot of expression (production) of the mRNA of whatever gene it is placed upstream of, but both Pfizer and Moderna use a cell-free in vitro transcription reaction using a bacterial T7 polymerase to generate the desired mRNA in large quantities. Getting into the possible reasons would be getting too deep into the weeds for this, although I will mention that the SV40 promoter is in front of a gene for antibiotic resistance (kanamycin) that is commonly used to allow selection for clones of cells harboring the plasmid using G418, as shown in this map taken from one of McKernan’s manuscripts:
I’ve also noted that there’s no way scientists could have expected that antivaxxers would have seized on any SV40 sequences in the plasmid as a strategy to fear monger. Indeed, I don’t know if, had I been involved in developing the Pfizer vaccine, I would have foreseen this development.
Dr. Malone spends considerable verbiage asserting his bona fides as a scientist, which include:
From time to time I am reprimanded by social media commentators and trolls to “stay in your lane”. I generally disregard these comments because my “lane” has broadened over the last four years, and our scope of knowledge and competency has increased as Jill and I have transitioned to becoming full time policy analysts and writers. But in the case of issues relating to DNA and RNA delivery, genomic insertional mutation risks, activation/inactivation of oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes and general mutagenesis, this has long been in my expertise portfolio. In fact, long ago Jill and I helped launch a breast cancer research program for the US Army and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences!
Which is all well and good, but I can add that I’m probably slightly younger than Malone (based on his history), and I’ve been NIH R01-funded and Department of Defense-funded (among other funding sources) for breast cancer research over the years. Indeed, I can’t resist repeating something I’ve noted before. Dr. Malone loves to recount how he was one of the first to examine the expression of mRNA packaged in lipid vesicles in vivo. I worked in a lab that was one of the early labs to measure in vivo expression of genes from plasmids injected into muscle. I didn’t work on that project, but thanks to lab meetings I was deeply exposed to the issues with such approaches. He also notes that he published a paper about endotoxin as a potential contaminant of the lipid vesicles used to package mRNA and DNA vaccines, which is nice, but it was also in 1996.
Now here’s where Dr. Malone gets a bit deceptive:
Beginning in 1983, I began my journey in learning the trade and craft of molecular virology in a UC Davis School of Medicine Pathology lab which focused on the molecular biology of breast cancer and the use of the Mouse Mammary Tumor Virus retrovirus to determine linkages between oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, retroviral insertions (ergo “integration”), and murine breast cancer. This was under the direction of Pathology Professor Dr. Robert Cardiff, MD, PhD, one of the early molecular pathologists, who had just completed a sabbatical at UCSF in the laboratories of Drs. Bishop and Varmus (Nobel laureates for discovery of oncogenes). This was where I learned to extract, purify, handle and analyze both DNA and RNA from tumor and blood samples.
The way that many oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes (and many other key regulatory proteins) were first identified was to introduce genetic elements (retroviruses, transposons – “jumping genes”, or other DNA sequences) into the cells or tissues of animal models. Another way was to take naturally occurring cancers (such as chicken sarcomas), grind them up and look for tumor-associated viruses that might have picked up genetic material from the host. From this you can appreciate that pretty much anything that interferes with the integrity of animal genome DNA by inserting itself into chromosomal DNA can cause cancer.
Given this background, Dr. Malone surely knows that the small fragments of degraded plasmid DNA in COVID-19 vaccines left over from the manufacturing process are not anything like retroviruses, transposons, or viruses. They’re just naked DNA, and relatively short bits of it too. Retrotransposons, for instance, have specific mechanisms of insertion into genomic DNA in the nucleus, and no doubt Dr. Malone knows this. He nonetheless conflates tiny amounts of plasmid DNA fragments with viruses, retrotransposons, and other genetic elements that can insert into genomic DNA and cause insertional mutagenesis (mutation by inserting into a gene, sometimes a tumor suppressor).My retort to Dr. Malone is that his background going back 40 years in molecular biology tells me that he almost must certainly know that what he’s peddling is bullshit.
The rest of Dr. Malone’s article is a whole lot of misdirection and JAQing off that depends upon his audience’s lack of detailed understanding of biology, molecular biology, and genetics, because it sounds really impressive and scary if you don’t know molecular biology. Here’s an example. He cites email exchanges between antivax “journalists” and Health Canada and the European Medicines Agency, noting that “reporters have indicated to me that the regulatory agencies refused to address many of their questions.” Actually, the agencies did; the antivax reporters just didn’t like the answers. For example, here’s an example of how the EMA answered the question about SV40, the “reporter’s” questions in italics:
Has EMA confirmed the presence of a SV40 sequence in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine?
An EMA spokesperson said earlier this year that “there is no evidence to indicate the presence of SV40…in the formulation of COVID-19 vaccines.”
How did EMA learn of this sequence’s presence, and when did it learn of it? Did Pfizer ever disclose the sequence to EMA?
An SV40 sequence is present in the DNA plasmid starting material of Comirnaty. In this case the sequence is not directly relevant for plasmid production in E. coli or for the mRNA production process so it is considered to be a non-functional part of the structure of the source plasmid.
SV40 is a naturally occurring virus. The virus itself is not used in the manufacture of the vaccine. Specific sequences for the non-infectious parts of SV40 are commonly present in plasmids used for manufacturing of biological active substances. The sequence for non-infectious parts of SV40 is only a small fraction of the entire SV40 sequence.
During the manufacturing process, this sequence and other plasmid DNA sequences are broken down and removed. Fragments of the SV40 sequence may only be present as residual impurities at very low levels that are routinely controlled. There is no scientific evidence that any of these SV40 fragments can act as insertional mutagens. While the full DNA sequence of the plasmid starting material was provided in the initial marketing authorisation application for Comirnaty, the applicant did not specifically highlight the SV40 sequence, as it was considered to be a non-functional part of the plasmid. They have since clarified this information in response to questions raised by EMA.
These are all legitimate and admirably clear answers. They are also all correct from a scientific standpoint. If Dr. Malone is so experienced with growing up plasmids and doing gene expression experiments using plasmids, surely he knows that SV40 is pretty close to ubiquitous in these plasmids. It’s just such a darned useful promoter if you want a high level of constitutive (constant) expression of a given gene. That’s why it’s used. The only quibble that I might have is that the SV40 promoter is, strictly speaking, not entirely “nonfunctional.” However, in the plasmid used by Pfizer it is nonfunctional with respect to producing the mRNA for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, the antigen used to generate the immune response.
Here comes the JAQing off from Malone:
Is this statement accurate – “The manufacturing process of mRNA vaccines is carefully designed and controlled to ensure that the level of residual DNA is below acceptable and safe levels.”? Currently available information indicates that, as a matter of established fact and public record, the current manufacturing process (Process 2) was hastily developed and implemented when the process employed to produce the initial clinical trial material was not able to support the manufacturing requirements. This statement by EMA is clearly disingenuous at best; basically just propaganda.
Except that none of this means that the process did not and does not, in fact, do exactly what EMA stated, reduce the level of residual DNA to low levels. Again, McKernan’s study was actually consistent with this. When he used qPCR to measure the amount of DNA fragments, he got levels very much below the safe limit. He had to use a method that is not as accurate for which huge amounts of mRNA crossreact to get his huge estimates for residual DNA plasmid “contamination” (or “adulteration”). Similarly, surely Malone knows that for any biological (such as a vaccine or any drug made through genetic engineering of a plasmid) the sequence of the entire plasmid used in the manufacturing process must be submitted to regulatory agencies as part of the application. (Ask yourself: Where did McKernan get the maps of the plasmids used by Pfizer and Moderna?)
Indeed, according to this Factcheck.org article:
Kirsch has also referred to “SV40 contamination” and claimed that the vaccines are adulterated because “the manufacturers didn’t tell the FDA about the SV40 promoter.” SV40, or simian virus 40, is a monkey virus that can cause cancer in some animals, but has not been shown to cause cancer in humans. The virus is not present in either vaccine, but the Pfizer plasmid does contain some short sequences from the virus, which are not infectious and not known to cause cancer or to be harmful.
Neither Pfizer nor the FDA would tell us what Pfizer shared with the agency about its plasmid. But according to statements from other regulators, Pfizer provided the full plasmid sequence — from which anyone could have identified the SV40 components — but did not specifically note that it contained SV40 elements.
“While the full DNA sequence of the plasmid starting material was provided in the initial marketing authorisation application for Comirnaty, the applicant did not specifically highlight the SV40 sequence, as it was considered to be a non-functional part of the plasmid,” the European Medicines Agency, which helps regulate medical products in the European Union, told us in an email, referring to the brand name of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. “They have since clarified this information in response to questions raised by EMA.”
The full sequence is considered proprietary information, of course, and antivaxxers take advantage of that. Moreover, even if Pfizer didn’t specifically annotate the SV40 sequence in the plasmid, the sequence was submitted as part of the sequence of the entire plasmid. Again, most molecular biologists wouldn’t even blink at an SV40 sequence in a plasmid in front of an antibiotic resistance gene. No doubt FDA scientists—and scientists at other regulatory agencies—didn’t even think twice about the SV40 sequence in the plasmid because, again, it’s such a ubiquitous sequence and it wasn’t even attached to the gene for the spike protein. That being said, regardless of the motivation or reason, I do a bit of a facepalm every time a company, doctor, or government agency does something that makes conspiracy mongering so much easier for antivax cranks.
Here’s where “biologically active” joins “adulteration” in doing some seriously heavy lifting:
The first two paragraphs of response regarding the SV40 Origin of Replication-Enhancer-Promoter sequences included in the Pfizer/BioNTech product Comirnaty are not technically correct and include an internal inconsistency. The statement “the sequence is not directly relevant for plasmid production in E. coli” appears to be incorrect. The sequence in question drives production of the RNA coding for the protein which confers bacterial resistance to Kanamycin/Neomycin, which is used to maintain the plasmid in the bacteria which manufacture it during their growth. It is also used to maintain this type of “shuttle vector” plasmid in animal cells for experimental purposes. These sequences are therefore biologically active in both bacterial and animal cells, and are directly relevant to plasmid production. This begs the question of why these sequences are even present in this plasmid, as a well designed plasmid would have removed these sequences to minimize plasmid size and maximize plasmid yield (and stability), and would have exclusively employed a more acceptable antibiotic resistance cassette. The statement “Specific sequences for the non-infectious parts of SV40 are commonly present in plasmids used for manufacturing of biological active substances.” also reveals the contradictory fallacy in the response. If commonly used, then why are they included if they serve no function?
See what I mean? Yes, the SV40 can be “biologically active” in this context, but note the “bait and switch.” Dr. Malone is implying that because the SV40 can be used to drive the production of a gene for antibiotic resistance gene in cell culture and in some bacteria (like E. coli) it must be “biologically active” when fragments of it are in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. I also note that, were Malone consistent, he would express a lot less “concern” about the Moderna vaccine, which does not contain SV40 promoter. He does not. He does, however, speculate:
One interpretation of this anomaly involving presence of SV40 origin of replication and strong regulatory sequences is that this plasmid was hastily selected rather than bespoke for this manufacturing process (process 2) because the PCR-based process 1 could not support the required manufacturing throughput. So this plasmid may have been basically pulled off of a research project for use by the manufacturing process development team. That is the most benign explanation I can come up with.
This is, of course, pure speculation. Also, even if this were true, it does not mean that the process was unsafe or produced an “adulterated” vaccine—or that the SV40 sequence is “bioactive” in the vaccine, Again, this is, in essence, JAQing off and denigrating the vaccine because it wasn’t “bespoke” (if that’s even true, as only the Pfizer scientists know why they chose to go with this particular plasmid).
Speaking of JAQing off, though:
This next statement is really the absolute crux of the whole matter. We have established from this correspondence that EMA is aware that there are, in fact, contaminating DNA fragments, but that the EMA asserts that the level of contamination is safe. Then this rather odd assertion is provided: “There is no scientific evidence that any of these SV40 fragments can act as insertional mutagens.” The absence of evidence does not provide evidence of absence. This statement inverts standard regulatory policies and procedures, and is akin to a regulatory authority allowing the manufacturer to play “catch me if you can”. The proper regulatory position when the normal tension between regulatory authority and manufacturer/sponsor is maintained would have yielded the statement “rigorous long term genotoxicity and insertional mutagenesis studies have been completed and have demonstrated an acceptably low minimal risk of genomic modification.”
“The absence of evidence does not provide evidence of absence” is about as perfect example of JAQing off as I can find, because it’s true. Not only is there no evidence that any of these SV40 fragments can act as insertional mutagens, but there is not even a plausible biological mechanism by which they could act as insertional mutagens. No doubt Dr. Malone knows this, but he also knows that his audience does not know this. He also knows that his audience doesn’t know that the article from the FDA that he cites is only tangentially relevant to the question of tiny quantities of DNA fragments in an mRNA vaccine. Indeed, he cites the same guidance that McKernan did:
When last I addressed this, I looked up the reference cited, which notes:
In evaluating the potential harm of plasmid integration, it should be noted that the risk of introducing plasmids with strong regulatory regions into the host genome far exceeds that associated with random point mutations [43;50]. Moreover, the technology used to detect plasmid persistence does not examine the frequency with which short fragments of plasmid integrate. In this context, sections of DNA as short as 7 bp can affect rates of integration or recombination. Examples include the VDJ recombination signal sequence and related sequences, chi-like elements and minisatellites, ALU sequences, a recombinase signal present in hepatitis B and mammalian genomes, and topoisomerase II recognition sites .
I then pointed out how this section appeared to me to be talking about short sequences on an intact plasmid that serve as regulatory elements in the context of DNA vaccines, which would involve the injection of huge quantities of DNA relative to anything we are talking about with respect to sub-nanogram amounts of plasmid DNA fragments in an mRNA vaccine. The difference in the amount of DNA involved is orders of magnitude, which makes it arguably a different beast.
The rest of Dr. Malone’s post involves, if you’ll excuse me again, variants of the same sort of JAQing off. In particular, he’s annoyed with the response from the FDA, which likely recognized a bunch of cranks when it saw them, and declined to be drawn into the weeds with a detailed response. My guess is that they weighed how much the antivaxxers would have dragged them down if they provided a more detailed response and compared it with how much they would conspiracy monger with a less detailed, more generic response and decided that the more generic response would likely do less damage. Whether they were correct about that, I don’t know, but I do know that, no matter what level of detail that any regulatory agency provided in response to the antivax questions, it would never be enough, and people like Malone would just continue JAQing off.
The expected response
I’ll conclude by noting something about the last section of Dr. Malone’s response:
In sum, this information clearly documents the shoddy, biased regulatory review processes employed by these agencies concerning the rushed mod-mRNA “vaccine” regulatory oversight and approval processes. There is a clear appearance of conflict of interest associated with current practices, which stand in stark contrast to the cautious and methodical assessments of integration and genotoxicity risks which characterized previous historic regulatory authority approaches to the closely related field of DNA vaccines.
Again, mRNA vaccines and DNA vaccines are different beasts, and tiny amounts of residual DNA from the manufacturing process in an mRNA vaccine represent a different situation, given that the amount of DNA involved is orders of magnitude smaller, easily a thousand times smaller, given that the “adulteration” being hyped is on the order of at most a few nanogram (and actually much less), while DNA vaccines can involve micrograms of intact plasmid being injected. Dr. Malone conflates the two, either through ignorance or by intent. (I rather suspect the latter.)
Let’s just put it this way, look at Malone’s grand finale:
This analysis and information summary clearly documents a profound failure of all three regulatory authorities to do their most important job, to protect their citizens from risks of both inadequately tested and poorly controlled injectable products which are neither safe nor effective, and to prevent exposure of the public to adulterated pharmaceutical products. In stark contrast to the disinformation propaganda which is being offered by each of these regulatory authorities, the public deserves open, comprehensive and transparent communication of risk and/or the data demonstrating lack of risk associated with delivery of these DNA fragment (oligonucleotide) contaminant/adulterants to a wide range of cell, tissue, embryo and fetus via the most efficient non-viral systemic delivery system yet devised by man.
The curt and dismissive regulatory responses received from each of these regulatory authorities suggest that such data do not exist, and instead biased regulatory opinion has once again been substituted for definitive data. The public should demand that regulatory authorities show the actual data supporting their assertions of safety. Both current and future generations of human beings deserve no less.
With the possible exception of the FDA’s response, I would hardly call the responses “curt,” and I wouldn’t even call the FDA’s response “dismissive.” Dr. Malone only characterizes them that way because there is no level of detailed response that would satisfy him or other antivaxxers. More detail would only have provided Dr. Malone and other antivaxxers more ammunition, while less lets them rant about the “curt and dismissive” responses. I don’t envy the press people at any regulatory agency these days, as I don’t confess to know what the right balance is between detail and more general responses that will minimize the damage that antivaxxers can do with their responses. I do strongly suspect, however, that Dr. Malone and all the antivaxxers with molecular biology backgrounds ranting about SV40 and plasmid DNA in the vaccines know exactly what they are doing and are not honest actors. The “adulteration gambit” is nothing more than the latest iteration of the longstanding antivax “toxins gambit.”