A vaccine with your name on it

“Critical info for all – especially those who get eczema – and are vulnerable to fatal cases after exposure to smallpox.”

This comment was posted on the HSI Forum more than a week ago by a member named Robert. And I have to assume Robert knew how timely his message would be. Last week, President Bush formally announced his plans for administering the smallpox vaccination. By now I’m sure you’re aware of the basic details: immunizations will begin for half a million military personnel immediately, followed soon by another half million health care and emergency workers. Vaccines will then be offered to the public on a voluntary basis beginning in 2004.

But there’s a good chance that long before the general population starts receiving inoculations, a serious health crisis will have already begun for many millions who are in groups considered to be at high risk of serious and permanent adverse side effects.

Close to home

As I’ve mentioned in previous e-Alerts, the smallpox vaccine campaign is a concern for me personally because I have eczema, a condition that will disqualify me and approximately 15 million others from receiving the vaccination, due to the high risk of side effects. There are several other high risk groups: more than 4 million with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis; half a million with HIV and AIDS; and around 200,000 organ transplant patients. People receiving chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and anyone suffering from lymphoma, leukemia, and any other cancer that affects the immune system will also be at risk. Pregnant women won’t get the vaccine. Nor will children under the age of one.

In total, as many as 50 million people will not be able to receive the vaccination. But that’s only the beginning of a situation that will become more and more complicated as greater numbers of people are inoculated.

For those of us at high risk, there’s the added concern of coming into contact with someone who’s received the vaccination. The smallpox vaccine contains a live virus called vaccinia, which can cause permanent injury — and even death — in people who are vulnerable to exposure. And this living virus can be easily transmitted to others from someone who’s been vaccinated.

My own situation offers a perfect example of how being at high risk will become an unusual health issue. As I’ve mentioned before, my husband is a police officer, and as one of the potential “first responders” to a public emergency (such as a bioterrorist attack using smallpox), he may eventually be required to receive the vaccine. And it’s easy to imagine all the variations of my situation: the inoculated healthcare worker with a pregnant wife or a new born child; the inoculated soldier whose mother is undergoing chemotherapy or whose sister has rheumatoid arthritis.

I don’t mean to sound a panic. And I’m not saying the vaccine program is going to be a disaster. But the potential for disaster is there. It’s well known that the government estimates that approximately 15 people out of every one million will suffer life-threatening complications, and of those 15, perhaps 2 will die. So if only half our population receives the vaccine, we’re looking at the possibility of hundreds of people becoming seriously ill, some of them permanently, with many of their cases resulting in death. That sounds like a disaster to me.

C to the rescue?

The HSI member named Robert, whom I mentioned above, has started two threads on the Forum. One is titled “Smallpox Vaccinations / Eczema – ANSWER,” and one is titled “Jenny Thompson – Read 11/29/02 Smallpox Thread!” As you might expect, that second one especially caught my eye.

Robert makes an impassioned plea to me, and anyone else in our group of 50 million high-risk cases. He offers several different sources that provide information on how high doses of vitamin C may be able to protect us from the side effects of the smallpox vaccine. One of those sources – the writing and work of Fredrick R. Klenner, M.D. – is not a stranger to e-Alert readers.

In October I sent you an e-Alert (“Be AfraidBe Very Afraid – Part II” 10/17/02) in which HSI Panelist, Allan Spreen, M.D., had this to say about Dr. Klenner: “Fred Klenner, MD, was using intravenous ascorbic acid (vitamin C) against viruses, serious bacteria and even toxins such as snakebites as early as the 1930’s. His patient records showed amazing successes, witnessed by hospital personnel, while most outsiders (who refused to review his data) labeled him a quack. Those who did, such as Drs. Jungeblut and Zwerner, Otani, Ormerod, and others, all came away impressed that his work was both accurate and therapeutic. He treated diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus, and in the middle of a polio epidemic in North Carolina he was considered to have ‘cured’ 60 out of 60 cases of infantile polio.”

Waiting & watching

I’m grateful to Robert for his concern about me personally, and for the millions of others for whom this vaccination campaign will be at the very least a health hazard, and in some cases, unfortunately, a health nightmare. Can mega-doses of vitamin C, taken intravenously, protect us from the side effects of the smallpox vaccine? It’s likely that we’re about to see that claim tested.

And if anyone has first-hand experience with this sort of vitamin C treatment, or if you know of someone who has, I would very much like to hear from you with details.

Meanwhile, I don’t believe we’ll be getting much information about side effects that might occur from this first round of inoculations. I can’t imagine that the defense department will be entirely candid about delivering any unsettling news that might arise. But soon enough, as the program progresses, we’ll begin to see if this is a plan that does more harm than good.

I agree that it’s wise to sacrifice a few to protect many. But in the end, if the sacrifice turns out to be harsh and the smallpox threat turns out to be nothing more than just that – a threat – we may look back and ask, “What in the world were we thinking?”

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute