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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
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 immunizations."
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 noted.
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 huge.
"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 straight.
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 vaccine.
"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, adiplomate 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, investigated.
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.
The debate about genetically modified food started among consumers in Japan
back in the autumn of 1996. As early as April the following year, the
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare received a petition from NO! GMO Campaign
signed by 448,028 people, opposing GM food and demanding proper labelling. And
by April 1998, the Health Ministry had received over 2 million signatures
opposing GM food, plus 1,050 written requests from municipalities all over Japan
calling for GM food labelling.
The Japanese government introduced a GM food labelling law in April 2001.
However, the law had many loopholes, so it did not meet the demand of consumers
to be able to exercise their right to avoid GM food. In July 2002, the
Ministry of Public Management and Home Affairs announced the result of its own
public opinion poll: 84% of respondents said that labelling is needed if a
product is derived from GM crops even when the amount is very small; 76% said that
labelling is needed if a product is derived from GM crops regardless of
whether it contains any GM material or not, e.g. edible oil and soy sauce.
Consumers in Japan were made aware of the issue of GM contamination when the
unapproved GM maize StarLink was found first in animal feed in May 2000 and
then in food products in October. In addition, unapproved "NewLeaf" GM
potatoes were found in snacks in 2001. A number of well known companies, like
Calbee Foods, House Foods and Bourbon, recalled contaminated products. In the case
of Bourbon, the sales of the potato snack totalled 1.1 billion yen in the
2000/01 fiscal year, against the company's total sales of 86.47 billion yen,
and the recall cost the company about 80 million yen. Japan suffered further
contamination via unapproved GM papaya, another unapproved GM maize (Bt10), and
unapproved GM rice (Bt rice, LLRICE601).
The concern over GM canola contamination increased when Percy Schmeiser
visited Japan in July 2003, and told Japanese consumers and farmers what had
happened to his farm and family, as well as to many other canola farmers in
Canada. He visited Japan again in July 2005. "The Genetic Matrix: The Schmeiser
Case and the Fight for the Future of Life" was translated into Japanese in July
In June 2004, the first reports emerged of spilled GM canola being found
growing in Japan. A survey had been conducted in 2002 and in 2003 by the Japan
Wildlife Research Center and others commissioned by the Ministry of
Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry. According to the survey, GM canola was found growing
close to the Kashima port area. Since then, consumers and farmers in Japan
have been conducting citizens' surveys every year to see how much spilled GM
canola there is growing in Japan and how far it has spread. The results of the
most recent survey confirmed that year by year the contamination is
spreading more and more widely.
Keisuke Amagasa of NO! GMO Campaign notes that, "Japan does not produce any
GM crops. However, because Japan imports GM canola from Canada, GM
contamination has already occurred and it is spreading to a much greater degree than
one could imagine. If GM crops are cultivated, then this kind of pollution will
spread even more. Judging by the ominous precedent of Canada, once GM crops
are cultivated, segregation between GM and non-GM will become almost
impossible, and keeping pure non-GM varieties away from GM contamination will be very
hard. The clear conclusion from the findings is that cultivating or importing
GM crops, leads to GM pollution and once this pollution begins, it can cause
irreversible damage." (Spilled GM canola growing in Japan - Citizens' survey
In October 2007, a delegation from the NO! GMO Campaign, an alliance of more
than 80 Japanese consumer groups, together with farmers' groups and 300
individuals, visited Australia, to deliver a petition asking state premiers to
extend their moratoria on GM food crops. The petition is signed by 155 Japanese
consumer organisations, consumer cooperatives, labour organisations and
cooking oil producers whose total membership represents 2.9 million Japanese
Japanese consumer organizations also previously visited Canada and the
United States to protest against GM wheat, and several European countries as well
as Asian countries to join events and conferences to protect our food from
GMOs, and to prevent our soil and seeds from being contaminated. NO! GMO
Campaign has also been participating actively in the International Conference on
GMO Free Regions, Biodiversity and Rural Development over the years. Moreover,
the Consumers Union of Japan is working together with Consumers International
to make the voice of consumers heard at the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards
Programme Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Codex Task Force on Food Derived from
There have been a number of campaigns opposing GM food initiated by consumer
groups within Japan, and Japanese farmers have become active in preventing
GM contamination of their farms and seeds. Last year, the environmental
organization, Greenpeace got on board and launched its own campaign in September
2006 by producing the True Food Guide in Japan, which includes information on
100 major food companies' use of GM ingredients. The guide exposed the fact
that many Japanese food companies are using GM derived ingredients without
telling consumers. The good news was that the confectionery company Bourbon,
after experiencing the recall in 2001, made it a strict policy to avoid using any
ingredients that are derived from GM crops, and so became a Green rated
company in the True Food Guide. Over 110,000 copies of the True Food Guide have
been distributed in Japan, including to many hospitals and schools as of
Moreover, the documentary, "The Future of Food" was translated into Japanese
and released in Japan in October 2006 by the Japan Organic Agriculture
Association, and its screenings are always attended by many people. It was also
screened at the Tokyo Peace Film Festival in July 2007.
In March 2007, NO! GMO Campaign, Greenpeace and Toziba (a young people's
group that has a project called Soybean Revolution, in order to increase the
domestic cultivation of Japanese soybeans), together with many other groups and
companies, held a press conference and launched a campaign to collect 1
million signatures to demand stricter GM food labelling. The organizations,
companies and shops involved now number over 90 from all over Japan(*). And in
November of this year, a big gathering and concert called "Earth & Peace Festival
- Society changes by each and every person putting a seed into the Earth"
organized by Operation Seeding (Tanemaki Daisakusen lead by Toziba) will be held
in Shiba Park near the Tokyo Tower in Tokyo. A large audience is expected at
the festival, and groups will be collecting signatures.
It should be clear that consumers in Japan will not accept GM food and GM
agriculture, and they are building more and more alliances to say "No!" to
GMOs. Additionally, Japanese consumers are also aware of the debate over fuel
production via GM crops. Whatever the intended purpose, Japanese consumers will
not support GM plants and GM animals and they also oppose patents on life.
PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday he would
suspend the planting of genetically modified (GMO) pest-resistant crops
until the results of an appraisal of the issue later this year or early in 2008.
Unveiling the country's new environment policy, Sarkozy said no GMO crops
would be planted in France until the government had received the results of an
evaluation by a new authority on GMOs set to be launched later this year.
"I don't want to be in contradiction with EU laws, but I have to make a
choice. In line of the precautionary principle, I wish that the commercial
cultivation of genetically modified pesticide GMOs be suspended," he said.
The only GMO crop grown in the European Union is a maize using the so-called
MON 810 technology developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, which is
designed to resist the European corn borer, a pest that attacks maize stalks and
thrives in warmer climates in southern EU countries.
Monsanto says the protein contained in its maize has selective toxicity but
is harmless to humans, fish and wildlife.
Just 22,000 hectares -- 1.5 percent of France's cultivated maize land --
have been sown with GMO maize this year but some farmers have urged greater use
of GMO crops to boost yields.
During a visit to Paris on Wednesday, European Agriculture Commissioner
Mariann Fischer Boel said a full ban on GMO crops would clearly go against the
rules and that France would lose in court if it implemented such a ban.
RESEARCH TO CONTINUE
The future of GMOs has long been the subject of heated debate in France and
its reluctance, along with other European countries, to use GMO crops
compares starkly with the United States, which has a far higher take-up of GMO
A ban on GMO maize growing for the coming months would not affect maize
production in France because sowings do not take place until spring.
Sarkozy stressed that his move did not mean a halt to GMO research.
"This suspension of commercial cultivation of pesticide GMOs does not mean
-- I want to be clear on this -- that we must condemn all GMOs, notably future
GMOs," he said.
During his election campaign last year, Sarkozy said he had "doubts and
reservations" about the commercial use of GMO products which for him "had little
interest", but he stressed that he had wanted research to continue.
Several European Union countries have dug in their heels on whether their
farmers may grow MON 810 maize, one of Europe's oldest GMO crops.
of MON 810 seed in January 2005.
Germany earlier this year decided that maize produced from MON 810 seeds
could only be sold if there was an accompanying monitoring plan to research its
effects on the environment.
And Austria may soon face a third attempt by EU regulators to force it to
lift bans on two GMO maize types, including Monsanto's MON 810 and T25 maize
made by German drugs and chemicals group Bayer.