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Vaccine A: The Covert Government Experiment That's Killing Our Soldiers--and Why GI's Are Only the First Victims Hardcover – October 19, 2004

4.7 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Gary Matsumoto, a journalist based in New York City, has reported from thirty-two different countries on five continents, covered two wars and five popular uprisings, and won ten journalism awards. He has been the London Bureau Manager and Chief Foreign Correspondent for NBC Radio News; a National Correspondent for NBC's Weekend Today Show and Senior Correspondent for the Fox News Channel. As a broadcaster, he has covered events ranging from the toppling of the Communist Party in Eastern Europe to Desert Storm, the Tiananmen Square massacre to the death of Princess Diana. He has written about the anthrax letter attacks for the Washington Post and Science magazine. His 1999 article in Vanity Fair was the first to draw the connection between the anthrax vaccine and Gulf War Syndrome.

From The Washington Post

The history of American medical experiments with soldiers is one of ambivalence and ambiguity. Since the 1930s, high-ranking officers and civilian officials have at times foresworn the use of military personnel as human guinea pigs; at other times soldiers have been the most likely candidates to help answer scientific questions related to national security. According to one attitude these young soldiers are our best, our heroes, and must not be exploited for experimental purposes; another holds that they have already agreed to perform risky service for their country and so are natural experimental subjects. Often these views have coexisted, with one arm of the security establishment resisting the opportunity to use military personnel in medical studies while another arm takes advantage of it. During World War II, for example, the White House Committee on Medical Research decided not to approve the use of soldiers in experiments, while the Navy pushed sailors into mustard gas studies.

In general, soldiers have to follow orders that will keep them fit for duty -- a presumption that has been extended to accepting medical care, including experimental treatments if the threat is grave and the treatment thought to be potentially beneficial. But Defense Department rules also require prior scientific review and informed consent for highly experimental interventions. Then there is the broader problem, in civilian as well as military medicine, that it is not always easy to tell the difference between a deliberate medical experiment that falls under the federal rules intended to govern medical research and a merely innovative approach that does not.

Gary Matsumoto, a former reporter for NBC and Fox News, argues in Vaccine A that since the 1991 Gulf War, U.S. soldiers have been exposed -- without their consent -- to a gigantic, injurious medical experiment involving a "second-generation" anthrax vaccine. He claims that the pre-1990 vaccine was so purified that the Pentagon under Defense Secretary Dick Cheney feared it would be ineffective against Saddam Hussein's biological weapons. So Cheney ordered the Pentagon's health affairs division to identify a second vaccine source. At some point, Matsumoto alleges, someone seems to have decided to add an oil called squalene to the vaccine to stimulate the immune system and make the vaccine more effective. Squalene is found in the bodies of many animals, including humans, but was obtained for this purpose from sharks.

Not long after returning from the Gulf, some veterans began to complain of symptoms that included painful joints, rashes, fatigue, loss of hair, weight fluctuations, headaches and digestive disorders. The problems have been grouped under the heading of Gulf War syndrome. Matsumoto claims that many of the victims had antibodies to squalene in their system, indicating that they had been exposed to the oil. According to Matsumoto, a growing body of scientific evidence shows that injected squalene overstimulates the immune system, causing a cascading autoimmune reaction in which one's natural defenses lose the ability to tolerate the body's own components. The disintegration of cells and their contents leads to diseases such as lupus, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

There are other theories about the still largely unexplained Gulf War syndrome, including stress and exposure to Iraqi neurotoxins such as sarin gas, but Matsumoto contends that "vaccine A" (as he says it was enigmatically referred to in the Gulf) is the most likely answer. Worse, he claims, a vast, self-interested and in some cases financially conflicted conspiracy of government agencies and private interests (including Chiron, the flu-vaccine company that also manufactures the squalene additive) has ignored the data and continues to expose soldiers to the dangerous vaccine preparation.

A problem with Matsumoto's thesis is that squalene is found in the body's own cells. Something else might be causing the cells to break down and leak squalene. It's also found in food, including the massive amounts of energy bars eaten by soldiers. Laboratory tests of the vaccine can be contaminated by squalene on a technician's fingers. And, as Matsumoto admits, a complete theory will have to explain why some people who were supposedly exposed to the squalene-laced vaccine got sick and some didn't. The epidemiology of disorders like those grouped under Gulf War syndrome is notoriously difficult to pin down.

Much of the book is devoted to the David-and-Goliath tale of courageous individual scientists battling a bureaucracy that is hidebound or worse. There are also painful accounts of the suffering of veterans who were vaccinated. Some of the scientists and doctors who disagree with Matsumoto's conclusions are objects of harsh attacks on their candor and credibility. At times Matsumoto, who has been working on this story for years and is clearly passionate about it, indulges in payback against some of his critics. He suggests, for instance, that Gen. Philip Russell, formerly the Army's top-ranking physician and the hero of Richard Preston's The Hot Zone, might not have informed another investigative journalist that he was a proponent of the new vaccine, raising "questions about [Russell's] motives or his memory." Matsumoto then recounts a telephone conversation with a journalist named Trevor Butterworth (who'd called Matsumoto a "susceptible journalist") in which he dresses down Butterworth for failing to check Matsumoto's claims against his scientific sources. Not surprisingly, in this version, Matsumoto gets the last word. The pages that overly personalize the issue do his argument no service.

Matsumoto gives the impression that in both the civilian and military spheres, the human research protection system is a sham. While there are serious problems with the system, his account of the actual rules is inaccurate. For example, taking a line in the federal regulations out of context, he claims that research-ethics committees can easily waive the requirement to get a subject's informed consent for important science, but he fails to note that this refers only to situations in which states have requested it to improve delivery of services to people in programs like Medicaid; in 20 years of work on research ethics, I have never heard of such a waiver being requested, let alone granted. Matsumoto also seems unaware of the rigorous human-experiment rules in the military. If those rules have been violated, at least there is a long trail of accountability. When he states that, after the early 1970s Tuskegee syphilis study scandal, soldiers became "the only game in town," he must be ignoring the millions of civilians, both sick and healthy, who participate in medical experiments every year.

Yet Matsumoto admits that if Pentagon officials wanted to test a new anthrax vaccine, they could not officially do so on troops because that would violate ethics rules. If the system were as full of holes as he claims it to be, the rules wouldn't be an obstacle. Ironically, he cites Occam's razor -- the principle that all things being equal, the simplest explanation is probably correct -- when depreciating other theories of Gulf War syndrome but does not apply it to his own conspiracy theory.

Though Matsumoto labors to build a circumstantial case that a covert experiment has been carried out over many years, in the end he seems to suggest that there is room for doubt. Much of the book is taken up with the technical arguments about the dangers of squalene. Military officials continue to insist that squalene has never been deliberately introduced into any approved vaccine, though they have used it in some studies. The Institute of Medicine has discounted the squalene theory, but the Government Accountability Office complained about "a pattern of deception" on the part of the Pentagon when it did its own investigation of the claims that squalene was in the vaccine. Scientific doubt about the good and bad effects of squalene persists, and researchers disagree about why some batches of the anthrax vaccine tested positive for squalene if it was not deliberately added. Matsumoto's accusatory and often angry account does not resolve the matter, but the questions he raises will increase the pressure on the federal government to take up the charges at the highest levels.

Reviewed by Jonathan D. Moreno
Copyright 2004, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (October 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046504400X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465044009
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #883,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert M. Logan on December 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is frightening if true. The premise, set forth in the introduction and detailed in the book, is that the US government has used experimental vaccines from the Desert Shield / Storm era through today on GI's and other individuals. Author Gary Matsumoto methodically - sometimes excruciatingly so - grinds through facts and builds a circumstantial case supported by nearly 60 pages of endnotes.

Matsumoto was the first writer to publish a connection between the anthrax vaccine and the Gulf War Syndrome, doing so in an article published in Vanity Fair in 1999. His book, Vaccine A, is the spawn of that article.

Matsumoto does not have an evident bias of distrust in the US government or even the military. He acknowledges the need to develop and use a vaccine effective against anthrax. He is even willing to understand the failure to obtain knowing consent from those injected with an unlicensed vaccine due to the exigent nature of the Gulf conflict and the fear of biological agents in the possession of Saddam Hussein - at least initially.

As his investigation progresses, Matsumoto learns that one of the ingredients of Vaccine A (anthrax vaccine) is squalene. This oily substance is an adjuvant that stimulates the immune system. Unfortunately, this oil too closely resembles oils found in the body and as a result, the body's immune system begins to attack itself. This causes a plethora of autoimmune diseases.

Disturbingly, it appears that a wealth of scientific knowledge about the dangers of squalene was available to a thorough researcher prior to the Gulf War. Even more disturbing is the unwillingness of the US military to acknowledge more than ten years later the fact that squalene in Vaccine A caused a large number of "casualties".
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Format: Hardcover
This book confirmed my suspicions. I was daignosed in April 2003 with Multiple Myeloma (an immune system cancer of the plasma cells) while being Active Duty military. The military denied any relation of the Vaccine to the disease. I also developed other illnesses right after the shots. I received 5 of a 6 shot series. I also have 7 vertebrae that have cement in them so I can walk - a direct cause of the cancer. For more information on Mulplie Myeloma go to the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) [...] and please make a donation or buy your books through the IMF's Amazon.com link.

You can take this book SERIOUSLY because almost 1/5 of the book is devoted to DOCUMENTATION, much obtained from the US Government only available to the Freedom of Information Act. It is a truy impressive, in fact the most impressive and documented book I have ever read. Bob Woodward could learn from Gary Matsumoto.

I even sent Pam Asa, the heroine of the true story, an e-mail and she did respond. If you or one of your loved ones received the Anthrax shots buy this book, read it, and pass it on to others. The book is well written, puts real science into everyday English, and is interesting. There is no reason not to buy it and read it. Buying this book will actually encourage other journalists to investigate real issues and publish the work.
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Do not allow the subtitle, "The Covert Government Experiment That's Killing Our Soldiers and Why GI's Are Only the First Victims" to turn you off this book. It could be misinterpreted as a new age conspiracy theory-type work, when it is in fact a most seriously-minded piece.

Matsumoto does an immediately fine job of walking the reader through the molecular biology that is requisite to understanding the argument of his book: that US military researchers (biochemists and molecular biologists) began using the oil "squalene" as the main adjuvant to the Anthrax vaccine which was created to immunize US, British, and Canadian military forces prior to the first Gulf War (this was necessary because it was thought Saddam Hussein had a functional Anthrax biological weapon).

The oil squalene has a molecular composition very similar to other lipids (fatty, waxy substances) found naturally in the body; however when squalene is injected as the adjuvant of an Anthrax vaccine, the body begins producing antibodies against squalene -- which the immune system then has difficulty distinguishing from its own naturally-occurring lipids. The result is that the body begins destroying itself, causing severe autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, and a host of others.

Extant vaccine stockpiles being very low and almost incompetent to provide protection against Anthrax prior to the first Gulf War, military scientists were charged with producing an "improved" vaccine capable of protecting against multiple, highly virulent strains of the Anthrax bacillus -- with little time in which to do it.
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Vaccine-A is a carefully detailed account of the use of soldiers as lab rats for a new 'secret ingredient' designed to push the immune system into rapid response. The problem is, the secret ingredient causes the immune system to attack the whole body. The results range from arthritis to death. The book has the depth and consistency of truth. It is a sad, disillusioning, infuriating story.

Worse yet, the author demonstrates that there are financial links between military experimenters and pharmaceutical companies. The author doesn't stress it, but it seems to me that the next group of vaccines to be infested with this toxin may be childhood vaccines.

This book requires that you think when you read it. If you or a loved one are experiencing immune system problems and you had an anthrax shot in the military, take the time to read it and make up your own mind. I was very skeptical initially, but the author has written a master work. It's clear he cares for the soldiers, very much.

A great read of an evolving tragedy.
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