Sunday, November 21, 2004
Interested in reading mysteries or possibly even conspiracy theories, Jon Cohen of Slate reviews the new book, Vaccine A: The Covert Government Experiment That's Killing Our Soldiers - and Why GI's Are Only the First Victims, by Gary Matsumoto. Mr. Cohen doesn't find the book convincing in its argument that the government deliberately tampered with the anthrax vaccine given to soldiers during the first Gulf War but states that it does provide an overview of some of the problems with the vaccine and the quick decision to use it on those soldiers shipping out to Iraq in the early 1990s.
According to Mr. Cohen, in Vaccine A, Mr. Matsumoto alleges that the U.S. military's anthrax vaccine causes a constellation of autoimmune diseases and symptoms such as lupus, rashes, hair loss, and aching joints that fall under the rubric known as Gulf War Syndrome. Mr. Matsumoto argues that the problems result from the military secretly spiking the vaccine with squalene, "a fat naturally found in the body that, when injected as part of a vaccine, supercharges the immune system's ability to make antibodies." He further "accuses the Department of Defense of slipping this experimental vaccine past the Food and Drug Administration and involving unwitting troops in a human test" that he "equates with Nazi experimentation and the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study." Mr. Cohen contends that Matsumoto's book fails to answer the question of why the military would subject its soldiers to such an experimental and potentially dangerous vaccine. He also finds the book rather sloppily researched. If you have an interest in vaccines and vaccine contamination, Mr. Cohen recommends a different book on the polio vaccine and its early troubles. In his conclusion, he states,
"Vaccine accidents do happen, they do get covered up, and they deserve close scrutiny. One of the most famous vaccine accidents is the contamination of the first polio vaccines with a monkey virus, and a new book on the accident by Debbie Bookchin and Jim Schumacher, The Virus and the Vaccine, has many parallels with Vaccine A. But the research in this book is meticulous, and Bookchin and Schumacher's tone is so measured and thoughtful that my mind opens to their controversial thesis (that the monkey virus accidentally injected into people through polio vaccines causes human cancers). I'm not convinced that the monkey virus does, in fact, cause harm, but I am convinced that the question merits serious attention. Matsumoto, in contrast, with his sloppy errors, remote possibilities trumped up as facts, and outright dismissal of evidence that doesn't support his thesis, leaves me groaning."