The Bush administration is set to resume using the controversial anthrax vaccine on soldiers as well as civilians. The Pentagon announced in May the military will resume anthrax vaccinations for "at risk" troops. Soldiers receiving the vaccine will not be disclosed "for security reasons." A month later, the Bush administration announced it will set aside about half of the military’s supply of anthrax vaccine for civilian use in case of a biological attack.
But it is still not clear whether the anthrax vaccine is safe or even effective.
In the last four years, a number of published studies have linked anthrax vaccination to the development of Gulf War Syndrome, among them a study in the British medical journal the Lancet. Hundreds of soldiers have refused the shots, after evidence emerged that the vaccinations are connected to a variety of illnesses.
But then the Bush administration went on the offensive. The Pentagon funded an Institute of Medicine study which concluded in March the anthrax vaccine is safe and effective against all anthrax strains and routes of infection. Its conclusions were based on unpublished research–also funded by the Pentagon.
The story doesn’t stop there. Bioport, the nation’s sole anthrax vaccine lab has repeatedly failed FDA inspections which found among other things, contamination. Admiral Crowe, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is one the founding partners of Bioport.
The FDA cleared BioPort’s manufacturing plant to begin producing the vaccine again last January–months after the letters containing anthrax were sent to Congress and news organizations. Bioport was also allowed to distribute the 500,000 doses of the vaccine already in stock. The vaccine was offered to some postal workers and others who were exposed. But most refused to take it.
Today we are joined by three people to talk about Bioport and the anthrax vaccine. Democracy Now! called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pentagon, but they said no representative was available to come on the program today.
- Thomas Dennie Williams, reporter for the Hartford Courant who covers anthrax.
- Kim Brennen-Root, spokesperson for Bioport Corp.
- Meryl Nass, anthrax expert, physician and writer. Nass has more knowledge about the adverse reactions to anthrax than probably anyone in the world. She is the expert witness in several lawsuits on the anthrax vaccine. Nass identified the 1979 anthrax outbreak in Zimbabwe as bio-terrorism. It was the largest outbreak of human anthrax in history.