The Virus and the Vaccine: Contaminated Vaccine, Deadly Cancers, and Government Neglect (Book Review)

–”There has been a catastrophic failure in the government’s oversight of a vaccine program.”
–”Forty years after it was declared harmless, SV40 is causing cancer in humans.”
–”The vast majority of the baby boomers…have potentially been exposed to the virus.”

In one of the biggest political blunders in medical history, nearly half the American population was given a polio vaccine over the years from 1955 to 1961 that had been contaminated by the cancer-causing SV40 monkey virus.

This was done with the knowledge and approval of officials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The authors believe it is the main cause for today’s cancer epidemic.

Since the early 1960s the incidence of many cancers has been increasing. Today, 30,000 Americans develop acute or chronic leukemia, and 54,000 develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma each year. Malignant mesothelioma, virtually unheard of before 1955, kills about 2,500 each year. Brain tumors increased by 30 percent during the 20 years between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s.

During the first half of the 20th century, poliomyelitis ravaged much of the Western world. The devastating 1916 polio epidemic that hit New York City paralyzed thousands of children, and thousands of families fled the city. The epidemic rapidly spread throughout the northeast U.S.: 27,000 cases were diagnosed that year, and 7,000 died. Over the ensuing four decades every summer, between May and September, polio left thousands of Americans, mostly children, dead or permanently crippled. The worst epidemic on record occurred in 1952, when 58,000 new cases were diagnosed.

The entire nation became fixated on polio, and defeating it became a national obsession. Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh developed an injectable, killed-virus vaccine that was released in 1955, as Albert Sabin was developing an inactivated live virus oral vaccine. Both were grown on monkey kidney cell culture.

When the SV40 virus was discovered in 1960, studies soon showed it caused an array of cancers, and that it had contaminated almost all of both vaccines. But the nation’s polio program was deemed too important to interrupt, and this information was hidden from the public. Federal health officials refused to recall the millions of doses of the contaminated vaccine that already had been released.

The authors say that approximately 98 million Americans thus were at high risk for exposure to the SV40 virus. This represented almost 90 percent of the nation’s children and adolescents; 60 percent of those aged 20-39; and 19 percent of those aged 40-59.Research on the virus was ended in 1963, and throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s its consequences for human health were ignored. No follow-up study of the tens of millions that were vaccinated was ever conducted.

Much later, in 1994, the SV40 virus was found in human malignant mesotheliomas. But it was absent in mesotheliomas from Finland and Turkey, neither of which had used the contaminated vaccine. Soon it was also found in brain and bone cancers, and in leukemias and lymphomas.

It was not until 1997 that the first scientific conference devoted to the SV40 virus was held at NIH in Bethesda, Md. By 2000 more than 40 studies had linked SV40 to human tumors: today that number is nearly 100. In 2002 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reviewed every published epidemiological study of SV40. All were found to be flawed and thus inconclusive. But the Institute recommended no additional studies.

Bookchin and Schumacher have documented a prime example of how government funding of scientific research can cause disastrous consequences, and of how bloated, hugely expensive government bureaucracies, such as the National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration, repeatedly fail in their basic mission to protect the public health. It is a story that all Americans should ponder.
Jerome C. Arnett, Jr., M.D., Helvetia, W.Va, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Volume 20, Number 1, Spring 2015,

[Debbie Bookchin and Jim Schumacher, paperback, 380 pp, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-312-34272-2, New York, N.Y., St. Martin’s Press, 2004]