Would you want your medical records, including your vaccination records, permanently embedded into your skin, so anyone with a smartphone device could read them? The privacy implications are immense, as are the ethical considerations of what could, perhaps, become mandated along with vaccinations.
The question, unfortunately, isn’t just theoretical, as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have already created technology capable of storing medical information below your skin’s surface.1
“[L]ack of standardized immunization recordkeeping makes it challenging to track vaccine coverage across the world,” the researchers wrote in the journal Science Translational Medicine,2 That lack, or deficiency in information, is the purported impetus for the new development.
In an MIT news release, it’s further stated that “a lack of vaccination leads to about 1.5 million preventable deaths, primarily in developing nations,” suggesting that this “on-patient storage of vaccination history” could somehow save lives.
But instead of spending time and resources developing methods to track a person’s vaccine history, far more lives could be saved by spreading access to basic health requirements, like clean water, sanitation systems and healthy food.
Invisible Dye Injected Under Skin Would Track Vaccine History
The new technology, demonstrated in a proof of concept study in rats, involves dissolvable microneedles that deliver near-infrared light-emitting microparticles into the skin. While the particle patterns can’t be seen with the naked eye, a modified smartphone could be used to scan and view them.
The dye is made of quantum dots, which are nanocrystals, that emit near-infrared light that a modified smartphone can detect. Study author Kevin McHugh, a former MIT postdoc, said in a news release:3
“In areas where paper vaccination cards are often lost or do not exist at all, and electronic databases are unheard of, this technology could enable the rapid and anonymous detection of patient vaccination history to ensure that every child is vaccinated.”
The dye would be injected along with a vaccine. In tests, the patterns were detectable nine months later in rats. The researchers noted, “By codelivering a vaccine, the pattern of particles in the skin could serve as an on-person vaccination record.”4
In humans, it’s expected that the dye will remain for at least five years, where it could quickly alert officials if someone hadn’t received a certain vaccine or didn’t complete the full course of a vaccination.
Senior study author Ana Jaklenec, a research scientist at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, further noted in the news release, “In order to be protected against most pathogens, one needs multiple vaccinations. In some areas in the developing world, it can be very challenging to do this, as there is a lack of data about who has been vaccinated and whether they need additional shots or not.”5
Will Consent Be Required?
It’s unclear whether consent would be required prior to the dye being injected. However, the fact that the identifier will be given along with a vaccine patch, which uses microneedles embedded into a bandage-like device, suggests one won’t be given without the other.
“The fact that government-operated electronic vaccine tracking systems are collecting medical data on us and sharing it with industry and vaccine developers without our informed consent, is a violation of our privacy,” Barbara Loe Fisher, founder of the National Vaccine Information Center, stated, and this “on-person” storage of medical information certainly would be, as well, if informed consent isn’t required.
Other potential problems should also be considered, according to Mark Prausnitz, a bioengineering professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who told Scientific American:6
“There may be other concerns that patients have about being ‘tattooed,’ carrying around personal medical information on their bodies or other aspects of this unfamiliar approach to storing medical records … Different people and different cultures will probably feel differently about having an invisible medical tattoo.”
Health risks have also not been thoroughly assessed. The copper-based quantum dots used for the under-skin vaccine records are about 4 nanometers in diameter and are encapsulated in microparticle spheres that are about 20 microns in diameter. In studies on cadaver skin, the quantum-dot patterns remained detectable after five years of simulated sun exposure.7
“The researchers believe the quantum dots are safe to use in this way because they are encapsulated in a biocompatible polymer, but they plan to do further safety studies before testing them in patients,” MIT News reported.8 In 2006, a review in Environmental Health Perspectives published concerns about quantum dots (QD), highlighting the fact that their toxicity may be complex and is influenced by many factors:9
“Not all QDs are alike; engineered QDs cannot be considered a uniform group of substances.
QD absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicity depend on multiple factors derived from both inherent physicochemical properties and environmental conditions; QD size, charge, concentration, outer coating bioactivity (capping material and functional groups), and oxidative, photolytic, and mechanical stability have each been implicated as determining factors in QD toxicity.
Although they offer potentially invaluable societal benefits such as drug targeting and in vivo biomedical imaging, QDs may also pose risks to human health and the environment under certain conditions.”
Further, already the researchers are also looking to expand the amount of data that can be encoded into the patterns. They’re considering adding in the date vaccines were administered along with vaccine lot numbers, but this is likely only the beginning.
The Gates Foundation Funds Massive Vaccination Programs
The research into storing personal medical information under your skin was not only funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but reportedly “came about because of a direct request from Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates himself.”10
This isn’t surprising, since the Gates Foundation is very much involved in the global mass-vaccination agenda and heavily influences the World Health Organization, which could make implementing the widespread use of invisible medical tattooing that much easier. According to Fisher:
“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest non-state funder of the WHO, having donated more than $2 billion in earmarked grants to the international health agency since 1998, and is the second largest WHO funder overall (after the U.S. government).
Because Gates Foundation grant money is earmarked for specific programs, such as vaccine purchase, delivery and promotion, the Gates Foundation significantly influences the setting of WHO’s program priorities.”
The WHO and U.S. government are founding partners of GAVI: The Vaccine Alliance. In 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided $750 million in seed money to spearhead the creation of GAVI, a public-private partnership and multilateral funding mechanism involving the WHO, governments, the vaccine industry, the World Bank, philanthropic foundations and civil society groups to improve access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries.11
Since 2000, GAVI states they have helped vaccinate more than 760 million children, preventing more than 13 million deaths. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed $4.1 billion to GAVI, which states, “As a founding partner of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Gates Foundation has brought international attention to the cause of immunization … ”12
Most Funds Go to Vaccines, Not Strengthening Health Systems
Unfortunately, between 2000 and 2013, only 10.6% of total funding provided by GAVI ($862.5 million) was used to actually strengthen health systems in developing countries, such as improving sanitation and nutrition, while 78.6% was used to purchase, deliver and promote vaccines.13
This raises the crucial question: Is vaccination the key to preventing disease and saving lives, or could such investments be better spent providing access to the key foundations of health — things like clean water, healthy food and sanitation?
Simple interventions to improve hygiene, such as access to safe water, toilets and soap, could prevent 1 in 5 newborn deaths in the developing world, according to the nonprofit organization WaterAid America.14 WaterAid states:15
“Every minute a newborn baby dies from infection caused by a lack of clean water and an unclean environment. 310,000 children each year die before they reach five years old from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation.
Many more suffer serious effects such as undernutrition and stunting that affect them well into adulthood. To end this crisis, we advocate integration of access to water, sanitation and hygiene promotion into health policy and delivery locally, nationally and internationally.”
Even those who support vaccination argue that a coordinated approach is necessary to fight disease — one that absolutely includes interventions that support clean water, sanitation and good hygiene.
“The links between dirty hands, dirty water and infant mortality have been known for more than 150 years — this is not a puzzle waiting for an answer, but an injustice waiting for action. The time for change is now,” WaterAid notes.16 In the case of cholera, for instance, a review in The Lancet Global Health states:17
“ … [V]accination strategies should be matched with investments in long-term prevention, including water and sanitation infrastructure and sustainable behaviours around hygiene. Apart from long-term interventions, immediate results can be had by accompanying the delivery of the oral cholera vaccine with hygiene promotion.
Promoting safe water treatment and storage, safe disposal of faeces, handwashing with soap at key moments, and food hygiene are important and often neglected opportunities to strengthen the cholera response …
Long-term investments in universal access to WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene interventions] will be essential in both the immediate response to this growing threat and in building up communities’ resilience for the future.”
What Other Personal Information Could Be Carried as a Tattoo?
Vaccine history is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the data that could potentially be embedded under your skin. The MIT researchers are looking into injectable sensors that would track insulin levels in diabetics, for starters.18 How this information could ultimately be manipulated and sold is a disturbing prospect, one that’s already being borne out in different formats.
For instance, Google, Amazon and Microsoft collect data entered into health and diagnostic sites, which is then shared with hundreds of third parties — and these data are not anonymized, meaning it’s tied to specifically to you, without your knowledge or consent.19
What this means is DoubleClick, Google’s ad service, will know which prescriptions you’ve searched for on Drugs.com, thus providing you with personalized drug ads. Meanwhile, Facebook receives information about what you’ve searched for in WebMD’s symptom checker.
Google, Amazon, Apple and the startup Xealth are also data mining people’s personal electronic medical records to expand their businesses.20 By keeping a record of your personal vaccination history and other medical data on a scannable tattoo under your skin, it opens up a whole new level of data mining opportunity that could easily fall into the wrong hands.
This is why, now more than ever, it’s important to make conscious choices to protect your medical privacy as well as your right to informed consent.
Read more: articles.mercola.com