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SUBJECT: Monkey Virus (SV-40) Polio Vaccine Contamination
The Polio Vaccine Linked to a Cancer-Causing Monkey Virus: A Revealing Interview With the Authors of "The Virus and the Vaccine"--From Dr. Mercola's email newsletter
Dr. Mercola's Comment:
If you read the review of "The Virus and the Vaccine" in the last newsletter, you’ll know that I highly recommend The Virus and the Vaccine to anyone looking for an intriguing, intelligent read, but especially to anyone who received the polio vaccine during the 1950s and 1960s or who is experiencing an unexpected and unexplainable cancer. It's truly a shame that this "medical blunder" could have essentially exchanged one poison for another, infecting healthy people with a carcinogenic virus in the name of disease prevention.
To give a brief synopsis, the book tells the story of how the polio vaccine, still mandatory in the United States and typically given four times during a child's first 16 months of life, during the 1950s and early 1960s, was widely contaminated with the monkey virus, SV40, which had gotten into the vaccine during the manufacturing process. In lab tests the virus was found to cause several different types of cancer, including brain cancer, and now SV40 is showing up in a variety of human cancers such as lung, brain, bone and lymphatic.
The virus is even showing up in children too young to have received the contaminated vaccine, which raises even more questions that are addressed in the book.
If you are compelled to learn more about protecting your health and the health of your loved ones from the dangers of vaccines, a powerful resource is Vaccines: What CDC Documents and Science Reveal, a two-hour video by world-renowned vaccine expert Dr. Sherri Tenpenny. The video is the culmination of Dr. Tenpenny's three-year investigation into the real story behind vaccines.
What follows is an e-interview we recently held with "The Virus and the Vaccine" authors Debbie Bookchin and Jim Shumacher, in which they expand on many facets of this intriguing work.
1. "The Virus and the Vaccine" is based on an article that was published in Atlantic Monthly in February 2000. Why did you decide to turn the article into a full-length book?
During the course of researching the Atlantic Monthly article, we became very intrigued with the "history" of SV40: Why monkey kidneys, which are replete with unwanted viruses, came to be the substrate of choice for making polio vaccine in the 1950s and 1960s; what happened when SV40 was first discovered in the vaccine 1961; and why, because of government inaction and intransigence, it took more than 35 years for the scientific world to seriously study the virus’s carcinogenic effects on humans. These were all issues that needed more explication than we felt we could provide within the context of a magazine piece.
It was also important to us that the handful of men and women who were bold enough to proclaim in the early 1960s a profoundly unpopular truth--that America’s premier vaccine was contaminated with a dangerous virus--be finally given their due. We wanted a chance to acknowledge their courage and perspicacity.
There were other reasons as well. We wanted to present in much greater detail the "hard" science that explains how SV40 causes cancer, and thus help readers to understand why this virus should be taken seriously as a public health issue. And, we wanted a chance to tell many more of the human interest stories that lie behind this science--the personal anecdotes of the men and women who made these groundbreaking discoveries about SV40.
A book gave us a chance to describe to a lay audience the context in which crucial medical research is performed today, including how personalities and predilections shape such research--topics that do not get enough attention in the media, especially when it comes to health issues. As we tell in the book, why SV40 was neglected as a health threat for so long and then "rediscovered" decades later--and why the U.S. government continues to oppose SV40 research--is not only an interesting scientific tale, but offers great insight into how political agendas and profit motives sometimes can distort public health policy.
2. Who would benefit from reading this book?
The SV40 contamination of the polio vaccine most directly affects Baby Boomers, almost 100 percent of whom received potentially contaminated Salk vaccine as children (between 1954 and 1963). But the book is relevant to every American, young or old. If you are concerned about your health or the health of your families and friends, you should read this book because it raises a critical public health question: As long as vaccine use is mandated by government, doesn’t the government have an obligation to guarantee vaccine safety and purity?
Sadly, the history of the SV40 contamination of the polio vaccine suggests that at times the government has failed to meet this fundamental public health responsibility.
3. Do you know of any recourse a person who may have been given the contaminated polio vaccine, or who suspects they have a cancer linked to SV40, can take?
Unfortunately, there’s still not an easy-to-use screening or diagnostic test for the presence of SV40, such as those available for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. As we detail in our book, lack of government funding for SV40 research has hampered this and other basic research on the virus, including how it spreads, how many people are infected, and whether it is associated with other tumors in addition to the four types (mesothelioma, bone and brain cancers, and non-Hodgkins lymphomas) to which SV40 has been most commonly linked.
However, tests are available that can detect the presence of SV40 in these and other tumors. Leading SV40 researchers, as we describe in the book, are currently investigating how it may be possible to fight SV40-related cancers by targeting the SV40 in tumors. Certainly patients who suspect they have a tumor linked to SV40 should talk to their caregivers and consider all treatment options, including testing for the presence of SV40.
4. What was the most shocking piece of information you uncovered while writing "The Virus and the Vaccine"?
There is much that is dismaying about the story of SV40, not the least of which is that the zeal of U.S. health officials to protect the reputation of the polio vaccine has led to a 40-year pattern of official disavowal by the NIH of the dangers posed by the virus. At times, that has included retribution against government scientists who have questioned this stance. For instance, NIH officials essentially blacklisted one government scientist, Bernice Eddy, who went public in 1960 with the news that her research was showing that the polio vaccine was contaminated with a potentially carcinogenic substance. That same attitude continued decades later.
As we describe in our book, when an NIH scientist, Dr. Michele Carbone, first made the link between SV40 and mesothelioma in 1994, the reaction of high-level government officials was to try to suppress news of his discovery. Carbone eventually left the NIH because of the pressure; he has gone on to make discovery after discovery about SV40 and how it causes human cancer.
This official heavy-handedness in defense of the reputation of a government-mandated vaccine has not been limited just to attempts to stifle SV40 research. What truly shocked us was to realize that senior U.S. health officials had actively resisted efforts to make polio vaccine safer, including refusing to recall SV40-contaminated vaccine stocks in 1961, thus needlessly exposing millions more Americans to the virus. Worse, this continued exposure to SV40 was unnecessary. As early as 1962, a viable alternative method to make polio vaccine--which did not use monkey kidneys and absolutely eliminated any possibility of contamination of the vaccine by SV40 or other unwanted viruses--was available for commercial vaccine production.
However, this far safer vaccine production method was rejected by U.S. health officials. Meanwhile, countries in the Eastern Bloc, France, the United Kingdom and Canada, licensed polio vaccine production methods using this safer alternative during the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, reasoning that after the SV40 contamination, there was no reason to risk another simian virus contamination scare. U.S. vaccine regulators continued to oppose the new method. Protecting the reputation of the U.S. polio vaccine and the polio vaccine manufacturer (which continued to use monkey kidneys) seemed to be of far greater concern to these officials than protecting the health of American consumers.
As we document in the book, the upshot of this intransigence was that U.S. vaccine may have been contaminated with SV40 at several different points in time, including as recently as the 1990s--perhaps explaining why the virus is showing up in the tumors of children and young adults who never received Salk vaccine in the 1950s and 1960s. Fortunately, since 2000, all polio vaccine used in the United States is manufactured in Canada, using a method that eliminates the possibility of any SV40 contamination.
5. You write that "The Virus and the Vaccine" compels us to reconsider our headlong rush to meddle with the basic mechanics of life. Other than with the polio vaccine and SV40, where do you think this statement most applies?
A: We think the story of SV40 and the polio vaccine stands as a cautionary tale: Scientific breakthroughs, no matter how well intended, can lead to unforeseen consequences that may far outlast the problems they originally intended to solve. During the 1950s, only a few scientists were alarmed when they realized that monkey viruses were probably contaminating the polio vaccine. Wiping out polio was more important than worrying about animal viruses, which, according to accepted scientific wisdom, could not jump species and prove dangerous to humans. And so, hundreds of millions of Americans and hundreds of millions more around the world were exposed to a cancer-causing virus.
Today, in an age of HIV, SARS, avian flu and West Nile virus we sadly now know exactly how dangerous animal viruses can be and the nonchalance of 50 years ago about the subject seems misguided and dangerously naive.
Today, our society has jumped straight into an unquestioning embrace of many new biological technologies such as cloning, xenotransplantation and genetic engineering. Many other biotech wonders are doubtless still to come. We hear much of the great promise of these advances and little of the potential pitfalls. Rather than wait 40 or 50 years to find out what might go wrong, we should be far more skeptical and demand answers from those who proffer these new technologies as cure-alls.
What happens to all the genetically engineered plant life, and soon, animal life, we have already let loose into the environment? What happens when we have herds of cloned animals and start using them (or products from them) as foodstuffs? These are the kinds questions that have been scarcely researched, yet could have far-reaching consequences for the health of generations to come, and ultimately for the health of our planet.
6. Do you believe other vaccines may be at risk of similar contamination?
In the conclusion of our book, we document a handful of other contamination issues that have arisen over the years with U.S. vaccines. We strongly believe that U.S. consumers (and doctors) should start demanding better regulatory and safety oversight by the federal government over vaccine manufacturing. As in the case of polio vaccine, we (and many consumers and scientists) would argue it is possible to make vaccines that pose minimal risk of contamination from unwanted viruses, bacteria, or do not need to use preservatives such as thimerosal (a mercury-containing compound).
These methods may be more expensive--and that’s often raised by government regulators as a reason to not mandate use of such methods. But vaccine expense or vaccine manufacturer profits should not be an issue for government officials who are supposed to watch out for the safety of vaccine consumers. The only concern should be making vaccines as absolutely safe as possible.
7. This book is meticulously researched and you clearly have an inside knowledge of the characters involved. How long did it take you to investigate and write this book?
We began working on The Virus and the Vaccine in 1995 and continued our research right up until we submitted it for publication at the end of 2003. We continue to research the subject now that the book has been printed.
8. Do you have plans to write another book?
We haven’t had a chance to think about our next project yet.
Dianne Jacobs Thompson Est. 2003
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