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Deaths After Smallpox Vaccination

Ready to deploy, reservist dies


Ready to deploy, reservist dies

April 11, 2003


A young soldier from the south suburbs died of a mysterious illness before she could fulfill her dream of serving her country on the front lines.

Rachael A. Lacy, a 22-year-old Army reservist from Lynwood, became ill more than a month ago after receiving several mandatory vaccinations--among them anthrax and smallpox--before her deployment to the Middle East. She died April 4.

"Rachael left home a healthy young woman, and she became sick shortly after she received her inoculations,'' said her father, Moses Lacy, who buried his daughter Wednesday in Lynwood.

An Army spokeswoman at Fort McCoy, Wis., where Lacy was based, said there was no indication any of the vaccinations Lacy received were involved in her death.

"But until the autopsy is done it's really hard to say," spokeswoman Linda Fournier said. She said it would be a month before all autopsy results were received.

Lacy's father said she developed what doctors first thought was a cold or a minor reaction to inoculations about five weeks ago. Her condition worsened, she did not respond to treatment for pneumonia and doctors looked further, even calling a specialist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"They were just guessing; they had no idea,'' Moses Lacy said.

He said when his daughter could not breathe unaided and had an extremely high fever, weakness, headaches and nausea, she was taken from the military hospital to hospitals in nearby Sparta and LaCrosse, Wis., then flown by helicopter April 2 to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Rachael Lacy died there two days later. Her father said he was then told she might have suffered from the immune disorder lupus, and her condition could have been caused by the smallpox vaccination.

Rachael Lacy joined the Army Reserves in 1998 after graduating from Thornton High School in Lansing. She was studying to become a nurse at South Suburban College in South Holland and hoped to receive a master's degree as well. A straight-A student, she had received state scholarships. She was with the 452nd combat hospital support unit based in Fort McCoy.

She was a "fanatic" when it came to her health and she exercised regularly, her father said. "All she kept telling me is, 'I want to get better because I want to go with my unit.' I would like the 452nd unit to know that although my daughter did not die in the battlefield in Asia, she gave her life for her country that she loved, nonetheless," Moses Lacy said. "They are soon to be deployed, and she will be with them in spirit."

Contributing: Brenda Warner Rotzoll

Source = Reuters;jsessionid=2BYPRX2X0UAC2CRBAEZSFEY? type=topNews&storyID=2469167 tmpl=story2&cid=564&ncid=564&e=1&u=/nm/20030328/ts_nm/health_smallpox_dc_13
U.S. Soldier Dies Several Days After Smallpox Shot
By Paul Simao

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier who was recently vaccinated against smallpox has died from a heart attack, the third death among those participating in the federal campaign to inoculate hundreds of thousands of military personnel and health care workers.

A Department of Defense (news - web sites) official said on Friday that the 55-year-old National Guardsman had died in an unidentified U.S. military hospital on March 26, six days after receiving his smallpox vaccination.

Two female health care workers who were recently vaccinated against smallpox have died in the past week of heart attacks.

Col. John Grabenstein, scientific director for the Pentagon (news - web sites)'s smallpox vaccination program, said the deceased soldier was being treated for high cholesterol and was a smoker at the time he received his smallpox jab.

"We are categorizing this event at the moment as unlikely to be due to smallpox vaccination," Grabenstein said during a conference call with other smallpox vaccination experts and government immunization experts.

"We are not finished with our evaluation," said Grabenstein, who noted that more than 350,000 soldiers had received smallpox shots since late last year when President Bush (news - web sites) authorized the vaccination program.

The soldier's death, however, occurred amid growing scrutiny of the campaign. There have been more than a dozen other cases of heart- related complications in U.S. soldiers and health care workers who received the vaccine.

The possibility of a link between the deaths and the vaccine prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) to recommend this week that people with heart disease not be vaccinated until further notice.

Earlier this month, top U.S. health officials had said that reports of side-effects linked to the current smallpox program were overblown. Smallpox kills about 30 percent of its victims and scars the remainder for life. It was eradicated in 1979.

The United States stopped routine smallpox vaccinations in 1972, but decided to resume them for select groups last year as fears grew that the virus could be used as a weapon by radical groups or countries like Iraq (news - web sites).

When administered in the past the vaccine killed between one to two out of every million people inoculated and caused others to suffer brain damage. But it has never before been linked to heart problems.

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Second worker dies of heart attack after smallpox vaccination

LAURA MECKLER, Associated Press writer Thursday, March 27, 2003
(03-27) 15:11 PST WASHINGTON (AP) --

A second health care worker has died of a heart attack after receiving the smallpox vaccine, and officials are investigating whether vaccinations are to blame for cardiac problems seen in 17 people who have been inoculated.

The vaccine has never been associated with heart trouble, but as a precaution, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising people with a history of heart disease not to be vaccinated until further investigation is complete.

CDC officials said Thursday there was some evidence the smallpox vaccine has played a role in heart inflammation. They were less certain whether three recent heart attacks were related to the vaccine.

In New York state, officials halted smallpox vaccinations altogether while the heart disease issue is sorted out.

Also Thursday, an expert panel advising CDC raised questions about the government's vaccination program.

The Institute of Medicine suggested the CDC was moving too quickly beyond its first stage of vaccinations, which include public health and hospital workers, into a second stage, which includes a large group of emergency responders. The report, released Thursday, also called on the federal government to compensate people injured by the vaccine.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers struggled to do just that, but a House vote scheduled for Thursday was abruptly canceled amid questions about whether Republicans had enough votes to beat back a somewhat larger Democratic compensation plan.

The issue of smallpox vaccine safety gained new urgency this week after a Maryland nurse died Sunday of a heart attack, and the CDC launched an inquiry on a possible connection between heart disease and the vaccine.

The second death came Wednesday to Virginia Jorgensen, 57, of St. Petersburg, Fla., who was a nurse's aide at a local hospital. She suffered a heart attack about two weeks after being vaccinated against smallpox.

Like the other vaccine recipients with heart troubles, Jorgensen had a history of high blood pressure and other factors that put her at risk for heart attack.

"She's been having heart problems for almost a year," her husband, Robert Jorgensen, said in an interview Thursday. After the vaccination, he said, "within a few days she was feeling like she had a cold coming on and then it got bad."

The recent deaths "display a sense of urgency" and make it plain legislation is needed, said Rep. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chief sponsor of the Republican legislative package.

The latest GOP version would pay about $262,000 if a person dies or is permanently and totally disabled by the vaccine. Those less severely injured could receive up to $50,000 per year in lost wages, up to $262,000. They could also get unpaid medical expenses.

Democrats want more for lost wages and want funding for the program guaranteed.

On the question of heart problems, CDC officials are investigating 17 cases, including seven civilians and 10 people vaccinated in the military program. The civilian cases include three women who had heart attacks -- two of whom died -- and two with angina, or chest pain. The last two suffered heart inflammation, and all 10 military vaccinees suffered heart inflammation.

Federal officials see some evidence that the vaccine is playing a role in these inflammation cases, said Walter Orenstein, director of the CDC's National Immunization Program. He said there were reports from decades ago in Europe of similar problems with another strain of smallpox vaccine. They are less convinced that the heart attacks and angina cases are related, he said.

"This very well could be coincidental," Orenstein said.

The vaccine carries well-documented side effects, but they have never included heart problems. Still, the data were gathered years ago during a time when most people being vaccinated were young children not likely to have heart trouble.

The CDC was consulting with cardiac experts on to consider whether something in the vaccine might be triggering heart problems in people who already have risk factors.

Existing guidelines already screen out people with conditions that are known to increase the chances of side effects, including people with HIV, pregnant women, organ transplant recipients and people with a history of skin disorders.

The smallpox vaccination program has gotten off to a slow start. As of March 21, states had vaccinated just over 25,000 civilians, mostly in public health departments and hospitals. Concerns about the vaccine's risk have helped keep the numbers well below the 450,000 initially expected.

Several hundred thousand military personnel have been vaccinated.

Based on studies in the late 1960s, experts estimate that one or two people out of every million being vaccinated for the first time will die. The death rate for those being revaccinated was lower: Two people died out of 8.5 million who were revaccinated in a 1968 study.

Additionally, 14 to 52 people out of every million being vaccinated for the first time are expected to suffer life-threatening side effects.

That's because the smallpox vaccine is made with a live virus called vaccinia, a cousin to smallpox which can cause illness if it escapes the inoculation site and infects another part of the body. Vaccinia can also infect those who touch someone else's vaccination site.

Associated Press writer Rachel La Corte in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.

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Nurse Dies After Inoculation
Md. Nurse Dies After Inoculation
CDC Changes Rules For Smallpox Vaccine

By Ceci Connolly and Avram Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 26, 2003; Page B01

Federal health officials said last night that they are investigating whether a Maryland hospital worker's fatal heart attack was related to the smallpox inoculation she received this month.

Authorities also are investigating a second case in which a recently vaccinated woman, from an unidentified location, suffered a heart attack. She is on life support.

In total, seven people immunized in the two months the program has been underway have experienced cardiac-related complications, a development that so surprised officials that they have decided to screen out anyone diagnosed with heart conditions, Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced last night.

The unidentified Maryland woman was a nurse at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury who had volunteered to be vaccinated, according to the hospital's chief executive, R. Alan Newberry. She died Sunday in Arlington, where she was attending a conference.

Historically, the smallpox vaccine has not been associated with heart failure, and in an emergency call with reporters, Gerberding emphasized that most of the seven appeared to have some history of heart problems.

"Coronary artery disease is a very common condition," she said. "We will certainly do everything we can to get to the bottom of this issue."

Federal officials are struggling to rejuvenate a vaccination program that was supposed to be a central element of the safeguards against bioterrorism.

Only 21,698 medical workers nationwide have responded to President Bush's December call for 500,000 volunteers to be inoculated against smallpox.

Many doctors and nurses have refused to participate, saying the risk of the vaccine outweighs the threat of a smallpox attack. The vaccine, made from live virus, has been known to cause severe, sometimes fatal, reactions in a small percentage of people inoculated.

For every 1 million people inoculated in the past, one or two people died, and as many as 52 suffered severe complications. More common side effects include rash, fever, malaise and, in some instances, blindness and encephalitis.

Some unions, hospitals and health departments have advised against immunization until Congress and the Bush administration agree on a compensation program for people who die or suffer severe complications from the vaccine.

Maryland health officials said the woman who died, who was married and in her fifties, was inoculated March 18 and showed no signs of distress. Arlington County health officials performed an autopsy.

"There is nothing that suggests at this point anything other than a normal death," said Arlington Health Director Susan Allan.

Maryland's health secretary, Nelson J. Sabatini, said there is no known connection between the woman's vaccination and her death.

"I feel terrible that a health care worker has died," Sabatini said. "My sympathy goes out to the family. Right now there is no reason to believe there is any causal relationship between the smallpox immunization and her death."

As of March 14, Maryland had immunized 317 people, Virginia 358 and the District four, according to the CDC. Nationwide, about 20 people have reported some type of complication from the vaccine.

The mysterious pattern of heart problems prompted the CDC to confer with a host of outside experts, including cardiologists and the Pentagon physicians who have inoculated hundreds of thousands of military personnel. One person in the military has suffered a heart-related problem since being vaccinated.

Gerberding said the administration has no intention of halting the program.

"This is still critically important to our preparedness capacity," she said. "The potential for terrorism has probably never been higher."

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David Bloom's death tied to smallpox shot?
NBC correspondent possibly victim of 'toxic vaccine' before war in Iraq

Posted: May 8, 2003
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2003

Is the death of NBC News correspondent David Bloom during Operation Iraqi Freedom the result of a vaccination he received before the war?

That question is being raised in connection with a CBS News report which says the federal government is doing a sudden about-face and will let states stop administering the high-risk smallpox shot.

David Bloom

The 39-year-old Bloom, who was embedded with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division outside Baghdad and co-anchor of the ''Today'' show weekend editions, died of an apparent blood clot several weeks after getting both the smallpox and anthrax vaccines.

In the days before the fighting began, the U.S. government was rushing to inoculate a half-million health care workers to help in the event of any bio-terror attack. So far, only 35,000 of the targeted workers have been vaccinated.

As WorldNetDaily reported, just after President Bush outlined his plan to take a pre-emptive strike against the possibility that terrorists would use smallpox as their next weapon of choice against Americans, many emergency medical providers refused to participate amid the risk of side effects and the threat of liability issues.

"This is a toxic vaccine. We should only use it in people who need it," Dr. Brian Strom of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine told CBS. "And we need a few weeks or months to just step back and say let's replan the plans to see how many people need to get the vaccine before we continue on with it."

Smallpox is a deadly but preventable disease.
Most Americans who are 34 or older had a smallpox vaccination when they were children. By 1972, the risk of smallpox was so remote that routine vaccinations were discontinued in the United States.

The smallpox plan for troops came as the government weathered controversy over its anthrax inoculation. As previously reported by WND, hundreds of military personnel refused that mandatory vaccine. This after some 100,000 Persian Gulf War veterans got sick with a still-unexplained syndrome many suspect has to do with vaccines they were given and the possible exposure to chemical or biological agents.

According to the CBS report, an aggressive surveillance program designed to detect dangerous trends recently uncovered one: 11 cases of unusual heart inflammation among military troops who got the smallpox vaccine; three civilian deaths are also under investigation.

But Bloom's death was not counted among the vaccine-related fatalities, though it should have been, says Strom, since the reporter had the smallpox shot and died within a period of weeks.

Bloom among 'embedded' reporters

It's possible Bloom's case went mistakenly uncounted since private citizens are monitored by a civilian system, while troops are tracked by the military. It remains unclear who — if anyone — is monitoring the hundreds of civilian journalists who embedded with U.S. forces.

Bloom's case would make four deaths under investigation for a possible link to the smallpox vaccine.
... ... ... END

For further information from World Net Daily.COM:

As previously reported by WND, hundreds of military personnel refused mandatory anthrax vaccine.

See for full article

CBS News: David Bloom's Death story:

Note: Because David Bloom was given both the Anthrax and Smallpox vaccines, there is uncertainity about whether one, both or neither contributed to his death. However, the following news article mentions he died of a blood clot pointing somewhat more at the live virus smallpox vaccine.

(CBS) Three months into the smallpox inoculation campaign, sources say the government is doing an about-face and will let states stop administering the high-risk vaccine, if they choose, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

That's a sharp contrast to the original rush to vaccinate a half-million health care workers as a frontline defense against a possible bio-terror attack. So far, only 35,000 of the targeted workers have been inoculated.

Dr. Brian Strom of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine heads the independent advisory committee that urged the government to slow - or stop - its program.

"This is a toxic vaccine. We should only use it in people who need it," says Strom. "And we need a few weeks or months to just step back and say let's replan the plans to see how many people need to get the vaccine before we continue on with it."

The turnaround comes amid serious and unexpected adverse events in the first people to get the shots.

An aggressive government surveillance program set up to detect any dangerous trends recently uncovered one: 11 cases of unusual heart inflammation among military troops who got the smallpox vaccine; three civilian deaths are also under investigation.

But CBS News has learned of one high-profile death that hasn't yet been counted - that of NBC Correspondent David Bloom. He died of an apparent blood clot several weeks after getting both the smallpox and anthrax vaccines.

Asked if an individual death that occured within a matter of weeks a smallpox vaccination should have been reported , Strom said, "Yes."

The link between the smallpox vaccines and blood clots like Bloom's isn't widely accepted in the medical community, but has been claimed for years by some researchers. All adverse events are required to be reported so researchers can look for new, dangerous trends and see whether the vaccine may be at fault.

Strom says it would be "a surprise if we did not see new adverse reactions emerge."

Bloom's case may have mistakenly gone uncounted because civilians are being monitored under a civilian system and the military is tracking the troops. But it's unclear who - if anybody - is tracking the hundreds of civilian journalists who embedded with the military during the war with Iraq.

Bloom's case would make four deaths under investigation for a possible link to the smallpox vaccine. Already considered the riskiest of its kind, the smallpox vaccine may be even more dangerous than anyone thought.

    © MMIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.