Those who've questioned the Pentagon's Anthrax Vaccine Inoculation Program (AVIP) share an earnest desire to ensure that the rights and health of military personnel are properly protected. Mr. Fumento 's assertion that prominent vaccine critics are "ersatz experts" (including this author) is the height of hypocrisy. Mr. Fumento is an attorney; he has no background or training as an intelligence officer or medical professional.
Military officers, a number of physicians and highly respected public interest attorneys have joined forces to question a vaccine policy that Congress recognizes is dubious at best, and genuinely harmful to service members at worst. Two internal Army studies, obtained by the General Accounting Office and briefed to Congress earlier this year, clearly show that the rate of systemic adverse reactions to the vaccine are between 25 and 70 times higher than previous Pentagon and FDA claims. Pentagon officials have also been forced to admit that they do not know what the long-term effects of the anthrax vaccine will be for those required to take the shots.
Finally, Mr. Fumento 's characterization of my comments on the Army's indemnification memo for the vaccine manufacturer was wrong. The reality is that Army Secretary Louis Caldera stated explicitly in the memo that indemnification of the manufacturer was essential since the anthrax vaccine "involves unusually hazardous risks associated with the potential for adverse reactions in some recipients and the possibility that the desired immunological effect will not be obtained by all recipients." The memo was clear; the vaccine carried serious risks, a crucial fact that flew in the face of repeated Pentagon assurances that the vaccine was "safe and effective."
(The author is a former CIA analyst, free-lance author and international security specialist.)
No Need to Fear Anthrax Vaccine
Letters to the Editor
The Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2000
Copyright 2000 by Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
In response to Patrick Eddington's Jan. 3 Letter on "Anthrax Vaccine's Effects Still Unknown," in reaction to Michael Fumento 's "If Only There Were a Vaccine for Hysteria," editorial page, Dec. 15:
A lack of formal, published, long-term clinical trials should not be confused with lack of knowledge, evidence, and experience with the long-term safety of the anthrax vaccine.
This vaccine has been studied for about 45 years and it has been in commercial use for 30. In that time, several studies have been conducted and a great deal of information has been gathered. To say the vaccine's effects are unknown would be to say that 45 years of experience counts for nothing.
As for Mr. Eddington's comments about the earnest desire to protect the rights and health of military personnel, that is precisely what this program is all about. We feel it is the right of every soldier to be afforded the very best protection from the threats that our forces face when we ask them to deploy around the world. The relatively small risk of adverse reactions to the vaccine is far outweighed by the risk of death posed by biological weapons such as anthrax. The reaction rates that Mr. Eddington refers to must be taken in context. These statistics include very common vaccine side effects such as redness and swelling at the injection site. He fails to note that the vast majority of systemic reactions are temporary, resolving in a few days or less, such as head aches and muscle aches.
What is important to realize is the fact that the anthrax vaccine demonstrates similar, if not better, side effect profile than the vaccines we require our children to receive before entering public schools. Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera has been misquoted once again. Mr. Eddington insists on publishing a portion of Mr. Caldera's statement, replacing the subject of the sentence with his own words and creating his own version of the event.
In fact, Mr. Fumento was correct on this point. Mr. Caldera's statement referred to risks applied to the manufacturer and their obligation in production of the vaccine, not in any risk of the vaccine recipients. The military medical community is confident in the safety and efficacy of this vaccine. Protecting America's sons and daughters as we deploy them around the world is our moral obligation.
Kevin C. Kiley, M.D.
Brigadier General, Medical Corps
Assistant Surgeon General for Force Projection