This story ran on nwitimes.com on Friday, April 29, 2005 1:13 AM CDT
(No link at this time.)
Chicago attorney wants anthrax vaccines stopped
BY MOLLY BROWN
Medill News Service
In 2000, an Air Force captain stationed in Oklahoma received three anthrax
She soon began experiencing numbness and tingling in her arm, hand and
fingers. When she called the medical center, she was told the problems would
Months later, however, she had trouble using stairs and riding a bicycle.
She said she was "generally clumsy" and her speech was slurred and slowed.
After undergoing medical tests, her doctor said her cerebellum, which
controls motor functions, had shrunk and the damage was permanent.
In her early 30s, the woman -- who asked not to be identified -- said she
never had any health problems before the vaccinations. Though she admits
there is no proof her condition resulted from the anthrax vaccine, she said
there is no other explanation. Her neurologists have found no other logical
Still enlisted, she fears she'll be discharged within the year because of
"I've hardly told anyone," the woman said. "I only broke down and told my
parents when I needed a driver to and from the spinal tap a year ago."
The captain is one of many military service people -- more than 1,000 -- who
attribute their deteriorating health to the anthrax vaccine, according to
Chicago attorney John Michels. Michels, a former Air Force general, has been
investigating the military's use of the anthrax vaccine for six years.
In 2003, Michels filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense, the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services to ban mandatory anthrax vaccinations for service people.
The lawsuit also accuses the FDA of failing to prove the vaccine is safe.
Last October, U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan in Washington, D.C. issued
an order to stop mandatary vaccinations because the vaccine was improperly
licensed by the FDA. The judge allowed it to be used only in two instances:
with voluntary consent or if President Bush ordered it.
Sullivan also had doubts about the vaccine's safety and sent it back to the
FDA for review.
An FDA spokeswoman said the vaccine is "fully licensed, safe and
effective,"but the judge sent it back because the FDA had not proven the
vaccine was sufficiently effective in cases of inhalation anthrax.
The government appealed the decision and is expected to file briefs with a
federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. in May.
Michels said he still has serious doubts about the vaccine's safety even if
the FDA re-approves it and worries the defense department will be able to
resume inoculating military personnel.
The vaccination, Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed, was licensed in 1970 to protect
against Bacillus anthracis, an infectious disease that most commonly occurs
in cattle, sheep and other herbivores. In 1998, the government started the
anthrax vaccine immunization program, requiring all military to be
By 2001, more than 2.1 million doses had been administered, according to the
National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Meryl Nass, of Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor, Maine, who
spent 16 years studying the anthrax vaccine, said it is not safe.
"No one is allowed to do anthrax research on any of the young people who are
getting the shots now," she said. "The only folks who are allowed to look
at(those receiving the vaccine) are the Army folks."
Though Nass admits that no vaccine is 100 percent safe, she questions the
military's and FDA's decisions to use the anthrax vaccine. After publishing
an article saying the vaccine was a possible contributor to Gulf War
syndrome, she began receiving e-mails from service people who said they
became sick from it.
At first, Nass said, she thought it was coincidence. But "after 50 to 100
people tell you they have the same symptoms, I was thinking there was
something to it."
In 2000, the National Academy of Sciences commissioned a report to assess
the safety and efficacy of the anthrax vaccine.
The report concluded that the vaccine is "reasonably safe" and there was "no
evidence that vaccine recipients face an increased risk of experiencing
life-threatening or permanently disabling adverse events."
But Nass said the report ignored several studies that link the vaccine to
Gulf War syndrome.
"The (report) says it should be effective against all known strains of
anthrax," Nass said. "That is a ridiculous claim to make. In all animals and
people, no matter what vaccine you use, it's not effective against all
They made a claim that is completely unsupportable by science. They provided
the government with what it wanted to support its policies."