Anthrax is a bacterial disease that has been around for a long time, as far back as ancient Egypt. In fact, it was thought to have caused the fifth plague during the time of Moses, killing horses, cattle, sheep, and oxen. Scholars even think that Homer described anthrax in his telling of the Iliad around 700 BC and that the deadly pathogen may have contributed to the fall of Rome.
Anthrax was researched as a biological weapon by Iraq in the early 80s, and it was assumed that Saddam Hussein had created bombs and missiles loaded with the Anthrax bacteria by 1991 in preparation for war. The United States Department of Defense, in preparation, utilized a vaccine that had been created, but not yet tested for inhaled anthrax, to protect military forces deploying to the middle east. Vaccinations were required by all forces, not just US troops. BioPort, now Emergent Biosolutions, was the exclusive manufacturer of BioThrax at the time, and it had proven to be an effective vaccine against the bacterium when acquired through the skin, but not when inhaled, so there was no FDA licensing for use against inhaled Anthrax. Therefore, all vaccines given to military personnel were considered an “off-label” or experimental use of the vaccine.
Was The Anthrax Vaccine Safe?
Despite concerns about its safety, the Department of Defense mandated that all military personnel be vaccinated with BioThrax if being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. They then expanded the program to all US Military forces and DOD civilian contractors. With the expansion, BioPort Corp requested FDA approval for to include aerosol exposure approval, switching to intramuscular injections, and reducing the number of doses. In 1997, all military personnel, 2.5 million of them, were now required to receive the Anthrax vaccines. By 1998, it was mandated for all civilian DOD personnel as well.
After the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, two US Senator’s offices and news agencies along the east coast of the United States were sent letters that contained Anthrax spores. The power form allowed the spores to float in the air and for it to be breathed in by unsuspecting bystanders as well as its intended targets. There were a total of 43 cases of inhalation of Anthrax from this attack, seven of whom were postal workers who processed the letters. Ultimately, 5 people died and it was estimated that more than 10,000 were at risk of possible exposure.
Due to questions about the contents and safety of the vaccine; in October 2004, US District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that it was illegal for the federal government to mandate anthrax vaccinations. Judge Sullivan banned the Pentagon from forcing military personnel serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, and part of Asia and Africa from being required to get the anthrax shots without their prior consent. The military could not require the vaccine until the FDA approved it for the specific use of inhaled anthrax. However, those who refused quickly found themselves, for various other reasons, no longer in the service of Uncle Sam.
One of the ingredients found in BioThrax was squalene, a banned additive found in about 95% of veterans studies by Tulane University suffering from Gulf War Syndrome. Squalene is a tool used to boost the body’s immune system against certain diseases and was not approved for internal human use other than in highly controlled experiments.
In 2002, the General Accounting Office (GAO) conducted a study on adverse reactions of those who received anthrax vaccines in response to a large number of pilots leaving ranks. The most common reactions reported that lasted longer than 7 days were limited motion/pain in the arm, extreme fatigue, joint pain, and memory loss. Some debilitating issues that have been reported to Walter Reed Hospital have included muscle and joint weakness, chronic fatigue, intense migraines, cognitive problems, and even some severe diseases such as multiple sclerosis and vision loss.
There are reports on the internet of military troops who have experienced slurred speech, brain damage, neurological problems tremors, memory lapses, seizures, weight loss, renal failure, and other conditions that affect the nervous, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, skin, digestive, and respiratory systems. However, there are no peer-reviewed studies supporting long-lasting, debilitating effects of Anthrax. Makes you wonder…..
There is currently an Army memo being circulated, also being claimed as authentic although the validity of the contents is unclear, stating that the soldiers at Ft. Campbell and Ft. Drum were given “bad” batches of the vaccine between 2001 and 2007 when deploying to OIF and OIE.
Claiming a condition is service related due to anthrax, or any in-service vaccine, one must be able to rule out all other possibilities. One former military member was able to get genetic testing to show her brain disorder was not genetic and therefore more likely than not due to the anthrax vaccine. However, the proof is difficult and expensive. Being able to show reactivity within a short period of time after vaccination and having a strong timeline is helpful. Legal and medical experts can assist in working your claim if you feel that a vaccine has caused a disabling condition.