Government: Vaccines threaten up to 44,000 soldiers

'This really is like Russian roulette. Spin the chamber and take your shot'
Posted: October 31, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

A U.S. Soldier in Iraq is being punished for refusing an anthrax vaccine
that has a questionable safety record and apparently will be drummed out of
the service.

But such punishments may be of no avail to the military; the word already is
out in a government report that up to an estimated 44,000 service members
could end up with "severe adverse events (including) disability or death"
from such mandatory medicines.

The recent case involves Pfc. Leif Hamre, 22, who reports he's been
subjected to threats and intimidation after refusing to take the
controversial anthrax vaccine and was given a variety of punishments,
including 18-hour work days.

Hamre reports he was given an ultimatum in June to take the vaccine or be
punished but couldn't accept the medication, especially after he discovered
the military wasn't even handling the vaccines under the rules for storing
it at the correct temperature.

In an open letter to friends and family members, he said, "The tactics they
have used to coerce me into taking the shot are unregulated, unscrupulous
and downright un-American."

He reported he then was given an Article 15 - a non-judicial punishment in
the military - and his mother reported he was taken off missions, assigned
extra duty and had his pay scale lowered.

The controversial shots first were mandated for U.S. Military troops heading
to the Middle East for the Gulf War in 1991, then required in the late 1990s
and again for the Iraq War in 2003.

But the vaccine has been linked by investigative journalist Gary Matsumoto
in his book, "Vaccine-A," to the Gulf War Syndrome, and a recent report from
the General Accounting Office even confirmed that tens of thousands of
soldiers are expected to suffer significant health threats from the
mandatory vaccinations.

The GAO report confirms that about 2.2 million members of the military
service get at least one mandatory immunization annually, including those
for anthrax.

"No immunization is completely safe," the reported explained. "Like all
individuals, servicemembers may experience side-effects as a result of their
immunizations, known as adverse events. Most adverse events consist of
relatively mild reactions, such as swelling near the site of the

The report noted that a "small number" of people may experience more severe
reactions. "Some servicemembers who received these vaccines experienced
severe reactions such as migraines, heart problems, and the onset of disease
including diabetes and multiple sclerosis."

The military suspended the use of the anthrax vaccine in October 2004 in
response to a court order revealing concerns over the process through which
it was approved for use on the military, but that order expired in October
2006 and the mandatory shots were resumed within a few months, the report

As part of discussing the military's documentation of its anthrax vaccine
program and the Vaccine Healthcare Centers Network established by the
Department of Defense to monitor such problems, and "meet the health care
needs of servicemembers receiving mandatory immunizations," the GAO report
said officials with the VHC Network and the Centers for Disease Control
estimate that between 1 and 2 percent of immunized individuals may
experience severe adverse events, which could result in disability or death.
"Some of these events may occur coincidentally following immunization, while
others may truly be caused by immunization," the GAO said.
Marguerite Armistead, of the organization Protecting Our Guardians, told WND
the potential number of soldiers lost to the military from an inoculation is

"In public medicine, if someone is allergic and shows a contraindication,
they are never ever forced to take that medication - it's written in red on
their medical file - unless it's a life or death situation and that
medication is the only one that can save them," she said.

"In this military program, we have a product that has led to numerous
fatalities, numerous adverse reactions, and yet soldiers are told you won't
be deployable if you don't take this," she told WND.

"This really is like Russian roulette. Put three bullets in, spin the
chamber and take your shot," she said.

She said various federal reports document 44 deaths from the inoculations,
and thousands of adverse reactions already, many of them involving
auto-immune diseases or lesions on the brain.

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

Hamre's parents have told Protecting Our Guardians that their son has
reported he is expected to be leaving Baghdad on Nov. 17, and apparently is
returning to a base in Alaska.

"He told us that a captain from another base refused the vaccine but he
doesn't know the details of that situation. He got word about that from his
old roommate who was working at that base .. That roommate now is back where
Leif is located and it sounded like there may have been others who refused
as well. Leif's commander was angry that that person shared the information
with Leif and claimed it was over and now he was causing problems to bring
it up again," they wrote the organization.

"He continues to work longer hours than the rest of the guys and has brought
it up with the commander and is told 'you don't have it that bad.' I guess
by keeping busy the time may go by faster. Anyway, Leif is glad to have a
date set to start the process of leaving the war. He isn't sure about the
discharge, money he was told he would receive and the bonus for serving in
Iraq." they wrote.

The vaccine BioThrax, by BioPort - now called Emergent Biosolutions - is the
only FDA-licensed vaccine for anthrax in the U.S. And the Pentagon
repeatedly has affirmed its safety.

"The vaccine is safe and effective," confirmed former Assistant Secretary of
Defense for Health Affairs William Winkenwerder.

Still, the DOD has a number of studies evaluating its performance, and even
BioPort's insurance company, Evanston Insurance, is questioning the safety
of the product.

According to a report on Raw Story, the insurance company sued BioPort
alleging "material misrepresentations" by the pharmaceutical company about
incidents, conditions, circumstances, defects, or suspected defects" in the

"I believe as an American soldier you are expected to follow orders and put
yourself in harm's way but unnecessary safety risks should not be part of
the accepted risks one is asked to face," Hamre said. "We are being forced
to accept chemicals into our already weary bodies that have caused the
suffering of thousands of individuals; of course those people are easily
dismissed by the government because they took a 'safe' drug. One thing
bothers me though; I am an American citizen too, with rights I thought we
were fighting to protect. I have given two years of dedicated service to the
Army, with a clean record and a willingness to sacrifice for my country and
fellow soldiers.

"I am looking forward to much more punishment and probably a discharge from
the Army. I just don't think any of this seems right." he said.
Hamre's mother told Protecting Our Guardians appeals to various upper
officials in the military and even Congress have been unavailing.
While the GAO report warns of the 1-2 percent rate for "disability or death"
from vaccines, that figure includes all vaccines, including anthrax,
administered to servicemembers by the military. There are about 2.2 million
servicemembers who are inoculated every year, which would suggest
significant impacts for 22,000-44,000 servicemembers around the world.
Armistead noted that the vaccine's own product insert warns of potential
complications with heart problems, Guillain Barre Syndrome, seizures and
paralysis among the nearly four dozen potential adverse reactions.

WND earlier reported Dr. Meryl Nass, a diplomate of the American Board of
Internal Medicine, is warning 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, an order requiring civilians to be
inoculated also 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.

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 [already] 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.

There are responses developing, too.

When Maine Army National Guard Capt. Patrick Damon died in 2006 in
Afghanistan from "undetermined causes," his mother, Barbara Damon-Day,

She now believes military vaccinations played a role, and the state
Legislature has approved with unanimous support a bill putting in place
various safety measures and reviews.

The plan creates a commission to review various health care practices
including vaccinations for the Maine National Guard.

WND also has reported on the aggressive campaign by Merck & Co. and state
lawmakers to require Gardasil, a vaccine that targets the sexually
transmitted human papillomavirus, to be given to all schoolgirls.

At least 11 deaths and about 3,500 adverse reactions already have been tied
to that vaccine.