US News: BIOLOGICAL WAR-FEAR Civilians could be facing mandatory anthrax shots

Posted: April 4, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2007

Anthrax expert Dr. Meryl Nass

Not only has the highly controversial anthrax vaccine returned as mandatory for members of the U.S. military, but now a medical expert who testified before Congress on the dangers of those shots is warning that under some circumstances civilians could be facing government-ordered anthrax vaccinations.

Dr. Meryl Nass, a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, told WND that should there be another anthrax attack, such as the powder-laden envelopes that arrived at a U.S. Senate office building and other offices in 2001, such an order is legally and technically possible.

If a handful of people were to be exposed in an office building in Los Angeles, for example, the government could issue an order for vaccination for “everybody in the building, maybe everybody in Los Angeles. That’s what people now are facing,” she said.

The highly controversial shots were first mandated for U.S. military troops heading to the Middle East for the Gulf War in 1991, and again for the Iraq War in 2003. But according to investigative journalist Gary Matsumoto’s book, “Vacccine-A,” many of the military service members were given an experimental anthrax vaccine without their knowledge or consent.

There have even been questions raised by medical experts about what was approved by the Food and Drug Administration – and how it was approved – as well as the side effects that went undocumented, and the thousands of cases of sometimes-horrific reactions that allegedly have resulted.

Matsumoto, a New York-based war correspondent who won 10 journalism awards during his years working for NBC and Fox News Channel, in 1998 drew a connection between the vaccine and the Gulf War Syndrome. His book describes several cases, including an Army sergeant whose skin became so diseased that doctors, in a desperate attempt to cure him, removed every square inch of skin from his body. Then there was the Green Beret colonel who suffered walking blackouts that left him unable to find his way home, and the man whose brain literally shrank until he could no longer write his name or walk straight.

Matsumoto’s book goes further than the simple administration of medicine that somehow went wrong; he alleges that members of government at the highest levels knew the drugs were experimental and had not been tested adequately, but decided anyway to go ahead and use the vaccine on 1.4 million members of the military.

The reason? Matsumoto claims the existing anthrax vaccine was too weak to confer immunity in a timely way – on U.S. troops about to be deployed to Iraq a week or two later, facing a possible threat of biological weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein. So a more potent, fast-acting vaccine was deemed necessary, even if it meant using an untried formulation on America’s fighting forces, he says.

One of the original anthrax-laced envelopes mailed in 2001

Anthrax loomed large on the public’s consciousness when anthrax-laced letters were received by U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle’s government office, and several media offices, resulting in several human cases of anthrax.

“Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is Great,” was the theme in the letters, which were investigated by the FBI, although no one ever was charged.

Now Dr. Nass is suggesting that not only should members of the military be raising objections, but civilians at large should be clamoring for a government that protects them, not subjects them to questionable medical processes.

The doctor, who for years has specialized in the care of military personnel suffering from brain and immune system dysfunctions subsequent to anthrax vaccinations, has provided expert testimony to Congress, the National Institutes of Health and the FDA on the issue.

She also vigorously opposes the anthrax vaccine, and her website actively is recruiting volunteers to participate as plaintiffs in a new lawsuit against the government over the restart of the vaccine program.

“I think what’s important for the average person to know is that the military has vaccinated 1.4 million people, and there have been thousands of people … with adverse reactions,” she told WND.

And she said there undoubtedly are many more cases that have gone unreported or misdiagnosed as another disease.

Worse yet, the urgent need for the vaccine never has been documented by the government, meaning that military service members – and possibly civilians – could be getting a dangerous and life-threatening vaccine for no reason.

“The threat [of anthrax] is nebulous. It’s a good terror weapon, but a poor strategic weapon. It’s very unlikely to be used,” she said. That’s because the anthrax, if released on a large scale, would follow the line of the air currents, and be confined to that very narrow area.

An accidental release in Russia in 1979 did kill several dozen people, primarily because little or no treatment was available, but all in a very narrow pathway directly downwind from the release point. For a large-scale disaster to develop, someone would have to be flying an airplane back-and-forth over a target area, with a continuous release of the anthrax, she said.

And with the medicines that are available for treatment after the fact, the impact of such an unlikely attack probably could be kept to a minimum with the common-sense application of those treatments, she said.

“If somebody sees that airplane [flying back and forth], then take the treatments,” she said.

She said her concern was that the government, instead of taking all reasonable precautions to treat people, now has stockpiled 10 million doses of anthrax vaccine for civilians.

“This has stopped just being a military issue. If there were a threat or the potential for that threat, civilians could be subjected to mandatory vaccinations,” she told WND.

The history of using biological agents in war primarily include instances during World War II where the Japanese used such attacks in China – on a small scale, she said. There never was developed an ability to release them over large areas.

“If they are viruses, they may or may not be sensitive to a number of anti-virals that are available. If it is bacteria, there are antibiotics that can be used for most biological threats, and in fact many are responsive to doxycyclin,” she said.

“It’s old and cheap, doxycyclin. You should go out and buy a month’s worth. It attacks tularemia … plague and the like,” she said.

She said “mass treatments” should only be done when there is a risk-benefit analysis that has been defined, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the National Centers for Disease Control has found that’s never been done for anthrax.

She said she found it interesting that the military chose not to make its anthrax efforts a medical campaign, but instead made it a command program.

“The guy who teaches the soldiers how to shoot now is the one who has to force everyone to get [the anthrax vaccine] and punish them if they don’t.”

Nass said the attraction to terrorists is that in some ways anthrax could be used clandestinely, but “you can do that with other bombs too,” she said.

Her only explanation for the continuing pursuit of the vaccination program by the military was financial. “There’s a lot of money involved, the price of the vaccine has increased tenfold since they started,” she said. Several other websites noted the same explanation, specifically citing retired Navy Adm. William Crowe, who owned part of Bioport, in Lansing, Mich., which produced the vaccine.

“The whole program has never made sense,” she told WND. “We’ve got a lawsuit pending again to fight them on the science. I feel – actually I don’t know why, I’ve been involved with this for nine years – but I feel optimistic this year we’re going to end it.”

“Almost everybody has a big problem with this vaccine,” she said.

Matsumoto’s book documents the development of the anthrax vaccine by the Pentagon starting in 1978, to which eventually was added an oil called squalene, which has been linked to autoimmune diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

His book also warned then of just what is developing now: the mandatory program for military members as the inclusion of the civilian population in plans for the vaccination. He warns that will result in a “man-made epidemic of unprecedented size.”

A website called Military Corruption described the court ruling that ended the first wave of mandatory inoculations for the military.

“Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia fired a torpedo into the highly controversial program when he declared that the Food and Drug Administration failed to follow its own regulations when it approved the ‘vaccine’ to specifically protect against ‘aerosolized anthrax’ that could be used in a biological attack,” the site said.

“The FDA failed to properly classify the vaccine as ‘safe and effective’ for us against the inhalation type anthrax, Judge Sullivan wrote. ‘Unless and until’ the federal agency does that, the judge ruled, ‘the involuntary anthrax vaccination program, as applied to all persons, is rendered illegal.’ The judge said service members must have their ‘informed consent rights’ protected in view of what he called forced submission to ‘an investigational drug,'” the website concluded.

Nass confirmed that the military had made a very quiet announcement late in 2006 that the mandatory military program would be resumed soon, and in fact it has been relaunched.

That was more fully described by the Raw Story website.

“While the Defense Department maintains that the anthrax vaccine is safe and poses no long-term risks to recipients, a little-known program at Walter Reed – the National Vaccine Healthcare Center – seems to contradict the military’s assertions,” the report said.

“Documents … show that military medical personnel have known since at least 1998 that there are genetic triggers between illnesses and some required immunizations, including the anthrax vaccine. They also reveal the military knew and did not implement routine pre-screening which could help reduce vaccine-related illnesses,” the report said.

Nass said whatever results such research has generated should be made public. “This could save more people from becoming ill,” she said.

During the earlier mandatory injections, a number of service members simply refused, choosing to take the punishment rather than the inoculation.

Airman Jessica Horjus was one. In 2004 she told the Washington Post that if there’s no documentation of a threat, or confirmation that the vaccine is safe and effective, what’s the point?

“I have a kid to take care of,” she told the newspaper. “The Air Force can always fill my slot with someone else, but who’s going to fill the mommy slot?” She was demoted.

Nass now warns that the government stockpile exists, and the laws allow mandatory orders, not only for service members, but civilians.

“There’s no more emergency than there has been for the last seven years, but the laws … require only the potential for an emergency,” she told WND. “You can make that decision as head of HSS [the Department of Health and Human Services], or governors can give a vaccine on that basis.”

“Under a standing emergency, officials can say, ‘We don’t have to tell you. We get to make the determination… ‘ There’s a lot of scary things that have happened since 9/11,” she said.

She said she still is contacted regularly – at least several times a week – by soldiers who were sickened by the vaccines. And she noted that with the process for producing the anthrax vaccine, each lot has different characteristics, and can produce different results.

“Many studies of Gulf War veterans suggest anthrax vaccine caused or contributed to chronic illness in those veterans. The only studies that claim the vaccine is safe were performed by the Defense Department. Most of those students were supervised by the same individual, Col. John Grabenstein, who was the director of the military’s vaccine program.

“Col. Grabenstein claimed that no chronic illnesses resulted from anthrax vaccine. Yet on the anthrax vaccine package insert, FDA explains why those military studies had serious problems and cannot be relied upon,” she wrote.

In her estimate, up to one-third of the soldiers vaccinated developed problems ranging from muscle and joint pain and short-term memory loss to lupus and thyroid disorders.

“What can soldiers do when faced with the anthrax vaccine? It seems we are in a legal gray area now. Personally, I would ask to be given informed consent. I would ask for a copy of the vaccine label to review, which can be found at: [this web link],” Nass wrote.

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