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Vaccine survey shows trouble at DAFB

Deleware News Journal

Troops vaccinated against anthrax at Dover Air Force Base in 1999 were more likely to get sick than those vaccinated elsewhere, according to research to be published next month. Walter Schumm, a professor at Kansas State University and a retired colonel in the Army Reserve, analyzed a 4-year-old survey by former Air Force Capt. Jean Tanner. In 2000, Tanner surveyed the troops in her unit in Dover and found that 32 percent who received the anthrax vaccine had such symptoms as severe joint pain, memory loss and arthritis.

"There was something at Dover Air Force Base that was different," Schumm said. He compared the rate at the base to the military's own estimates of adverse reactions to the vaccine worldwide.

Don Whitley, a major in the Air Force Reserve, said he may have filled out Tanner's survey. Whitley said he recalled talking with Tanner at the time and that she was troubled about the vaccine. Whitley received all six shots, and he reported his symptoms to military doctors.

"It was dismissed as not being part of the vaccine," he said.

Tanner could not be reached for comment.

Schumm's analysis is scheduled to appear next month in the medical journal Medical Veritas. His research has been published in several medical journals during the past 25 years. Schumm has a doctorate in family studies from Purdue University.

Pentagon spokesman James Turner said he was unaware of Schumm's research. He said the Defense Department believes the vaccinations administered in Dover were safe.

"We are very confident of the scientific assessments and conclusions that indicate no abnormal pattern of adverse events associated with anthrax vaccine when compared to other routine vaccines," Turner said.

Tanner mailed surveys to the home addresses of 252 members of her unit who received the vaccine in January 2000, according to Schumm's report. They were asked to list specific symptoms related to the vaccine.

The survey was mailed eight months after Col. Felix Grieder temporarily suspended the vaccination program at Dover. Grieder, who lives in Texas, now says his troops were used as guinea pigs in illegal medical experiments by the government at the base.

Grieder's troops received anthrax vaccine that may have contained squalene. Some experts say even trace amounts of squalene can suppress the immune system, causing arthritis, neurological problems, memory loss, miscarriages and incapacitating migraine headaches. The military has tested squalene on humans in Thailand and other foreign countries to boost the effect of some vaccines.

The military has conducted no specific research into the health effects of the vaccines administered in Dover. Tanner's is the only known survey of troops taken while they were receiving their series of six shots.

Military officials strongly deny conducting illegal experiments and deny a link between the anthrax vaccine and health problems.

Just over half of the members of Tanner's unit responded to the survey. She counted those who did not respond as not having reactions to the vaccine.

Schumm found Tanner's survey by researching the anthrax vaccine on the Internet.

While Schumm makes no mention of squalene in the article, he said those who received the vaccine in Dover at the time had an abnormally high number of reactions. The rate of adverse reactions to the vaccine varied according to what symptoms were considered adverse, he said.

For instance, 82 of the 252 subjects met the military's criteria for a systemic reaction to the vaccine, a rate of 32.1 percent. Using the stricter criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47 potential subjects had adverse reactions, a rate of 18.7 percent.

The military has estimated only 0.007 percent of military personnel experience adverse reactions to the vaccine. Throughout his research, Schumm said he has never encountered rates of adverse reactions approaching the rates at Dover.

The survey was not designed as a scientific experiment, Schumm said. Tanner did not have responses from a control group of people who did not receive the anthrax vaccine.

But Schumm said the military should have investigated the survey results because they were so striking.

"It's a 32 percent rate of reactions," Schumm said. "Even just out of curiosity, it should have led to an investigation."

In a letter sent Thursday to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld calling for an investigation into the anthrax vaccination program, Delaware's congressional delegation noted "a great deal of unnecessary confusion and anxiety has been caused by the handling of this issue." The military has said it is preparing a response.

In addition to the Defense Department, the delegation also called for an investigation by the Government Accountability Office, formerly known as the General Accounting Office, and the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

"From what I've seen, more people have died from complications with the anthrax vaccine than have been killed by anthrax," Schumm said.

Contact Hiran Ratnayake at 324-2547 or hratnayake@delawareonline.com.

Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at 324-2362 or lwilliams@delawareonline.com.


Several former Air Force personnel who received their anthrax vaccinations at Dover Air Force Base starting in 1999 reacted Monday to news that the number of people who experience adverse reactions to the shots at Dover was abnormally high. The study by University of Kansas Professor Walter Schumm is scheduled to be published next month.

Felix Grieder

Col. Felix Grieder, a former base commander, said he felt somewhat vindicated by news of Schumm's study.

Grieder has devoted the past five years to investigating the Dover vaccination program, and has concluded that his troops were used as guinea pigs.

"At a minimum, this research further highlights the need for a timely and thorough investigation," Grieder said.

Danny Tam

Danny Tam was a former Air Force security policeman who received his first anthrax vaccination at Dover. After the shots, Tam was medically discharged by the Air Force for migraines, which his medical records indicate were linked to the vaccine. Tam is considered 100 percent disabled by Veterans Affairs.

Tam said Schumm's research only confirms something he has known for a while - the anthrax vaccine is not safe.

"I think they should look into it more," Tam said. "They're not researching it, and there are going to be a lot more soldiers going through exactly what happened to me. I really appreciate those folks who are willing to step up and study it. All we're getting is a big runaround."

Barbara Welsh-Rosenblum

Retired Air Force Sgt. Barbara Welsh-Rosenblum blames the anthrax vaccine for five miscarriages. Her last duty station was Dover Air Force Base.

She said that if the Air Force wanted to conduct a study now, it would still be possible to find the personnel who received the vaccine at Dover.

"The Air Force is like a small family," she said. "They could locate the people who were there. It would take a bit of work, but they could do it."

Welsh-Rosenblum said she would cooperate with any study.

"I'd do anything so that no one has to go through what I did."

Jay Lacklen

Lt. Col. Jay Lacklen served as one of Grieder's C-5 pilots. Lacklen, who is now retired, suffers arthritis he believes was caused by the anthrax vaccinations he received at Dover.

Lacklan said the evidence of illness from the vaccine in Dover is so powerful that any serious investigation would uncover the problems.

"Compare that to all of the congressional committees, with all their money and subpoena powers," Lacklen said. "This one guy, one scientist, how did he make this discovery when all these people with money didn't?"

Lacklen pointed out that the government often cites the safety of the anthrax vaccine and several scientific studies supporting the efficacy of the vaccine on its Web site.

"These vaunted scientists go on and on about how effective and safe the vaccine is," Lacklen said. "Why didn't they know about this? Why won't the military allow further off-the-shelf testing of the vaccine? That would confirm or deny its safety right there."