The polio vaccine: a critical assessment of its arcane history, efficacy,
and long-term health-related consequences
By: Neil Z. Miller, medical research journalist and Director of the Thinktwice Global Vaccine Institute
8. Polio Vaccines and Cancer
In 1959, Bernice Eddy, a brilliant government scientist working in Biologics at the National Institutes of Health, discovered that polio vaccines being administered throughout the world contained an infectious agent capable of causing cancer. When Eddy attempted to report her findings and halt production of these contaminated polio vaccines, her government superiors barred her from publicly revealing the problem. Instead, her lab and equipment were taken away and she was demoted [54,55].
In 1960, Drs. Ben Sweet and M.R. Hilleman, pharmaceutical researchers for the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research, were credited with discovering this infectious agent – SV-40, a monkey virus that infected nearly all rhesus monkeys, whose kidneys were used to produce polio vaccines. Hilleman and Sweet found SV-40 in all three types of Albert Sabin’s live oral polio vaccine, and noted the possibility that it might cause cancer, “especially when administered to human babies [55,56].” According to Sweet, “It was a frightening discovery because, back then, it was not possible to detect the virus with the testing procedures we had… We had no idea of what this virus would do…” Sweet elaborated: “First, we knew that SV-40 had oncogenic(cancer-causing) properties in hamsters, which was bad news. Secondly, we found out that it hybridized with certain DNA viruses… such that [they]would then have SV-40 genes attached [to them]… When we started growing the vaccines, we just couldn’t get rid of the SV-40 contaminated virus. We tried to neutralize it, but couldn’t… Now, with the theoretical links to HIV and cancer, it just blows my mind .”
Further research into SV-40 uncovered even more disturbing information. This cancer-causing virus was not only ingested via Sabin’s contaminated oral sugarcube vaccine, but was directly injected into people’s blood streams as well. Apparently, SV-40 survived the formaldehyde Salk used to kill microbes that defiled his injectable vaccine [58,59]. Experts estimate that between 1954 and 1963, 30 million to 100 million Americans and perhaps another 100 million or more people throughout the world were exposed to SV-40 through ill conceived polio eradication campaigns (Figure 6) [58-60].
Studies published in eminent journals throughout the world appear to confirm that SV-40 is a catalyst for many types of cancer [61-80]. It has been found in brain tumors and leukemia [69-80]. More recently, in 1996, Michele Carbone, a molecular pathologist at Chicago’s Loyola University Medical Center, was able to detect SV-40 in 38 percent of patients with bone cancer and in 58 percent of those with mesothelioma, a deadly type of lung cancer [81-83]. Carbone’s research indicates that SV-40 blocks an important protein that normally protects cells from becoming malignant .
Figure 6. Polio Vaccines and simian virus #40
In 1998, a national cancer database was analyzed: 17 percent more bone cancers, 20 percent more brain cancers, and 178 percent more mesotheliomas were found in people who were exposed to SV-40-tainted polio vaccines . The National Institutes of Health created a map showing the geographic distribution of contaminated stock . Using this map, researchers found osteosarcoma bone tumor rates to be 10 times higher than normal in some regions where this tainted vaccine was used (Figure 7) [86,87].
Figure 7. SV-40-tainted polio vaccines: zones of contamination
Between 1954 and 1963, up to 100 million Americans were inoculated with SV-40-contaminated polio vaccines. This chart shows areas of the
country in 1955 where 10 million people received polio vaccines with either no, low, or high amounts of SV-40 in them. Source: National Institutes of Health
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this ongoing simian virus debacle can be found in other studies suggesting that SV-40, introduced to humans through the polio vaccine, can be passed from human to human and from mother to child. A study of nearly 59,000 women found that children of mothers who received the Salk vaccine between 1959 and 1965 had brain tumors at a rate 13 times greater than mothers who did not receive those polio shots [59:58;88;89].
Another study published in the U.S. medical journal Cancer Research found SV-40 present in 23 percent of blood samples and 45 percent of semen taken from healthy subjects [83:163;90]. Apparently, the virus is being spread sexually and from mother to child in the womb. According to biology and genetics professor Mauro Tognon, one of the study’s authors, this would explain why brain, bone, and lung cancers are on the riseCa 30 percent increase in U.S. brain tumors alone over the past 25 years [83:163;90]—and why SV-40 was detected in brain tumors of children born after 1965 who presumably did not receive polio vaccines containing the virus [83:163;90].
Despite official denials of any correlation between polio vaccines, SV-40, and increased cancer rates , by April 2001, 62 papers from 30 laboratories around the world had reported SV-40 in human tissues and tumors [84:10]. The virus was also discovered in pituitary and thyroid tumors, and in patients with kidney disease [84:10,13]. Even the National Cancer Institute issued a statement that SV-40 “may be associated with human cancer [84:11;92].”
Studies yet to be conducted may provide additional clues about the link between contaminated polio vaccines, SV-40, and new diseases. But scientists have their hands full. The latest research has uncovered correlations between polio vaccines, another monkey virus, and AIDS.
8. Polio vaccines and AIDS
SV-40, the cancer-causing monkey virus found in polio vaccines and administered to millions of unsuspecting people throughout the world, was just one of numerous simian viruses known to have contaminated polio vaccines [38:57,58;93;94]. “As monkey kidney culture is host to innumerable simian viruses, the number found varying in relation to the amount of work expended to find them, the problem presented to the manufacturer is considerable, if not insuperable,” one early vaccine researcher wrote to a congressional panel studying the safety of growing live polio-virus vaccine in monkey kidneys . “As our technical methods improve we may find fewer and fewer lots of vaccine which can be called free from simian virus .”
According to Harvard Medical School professor Ronald Desrosier, the practice of growing polio vaccines in monkey kidneys is “a ticking time bomb [83:159].” Evidently, some viruses can live inside monkeys without causing harm. But if these viruses were to somehow cross species and enter the human population, new diseases could occur. Desrosier continued: “The danger in using monkey tissue to produce human vaccines is that some viruses produced by monkeys may be transferred to humans in the vaccine, with very bad health consequences [83:159].” Desrosier also warns that testing can only be done for known viruses, and that our knowledge is limited to about “2 percent of existing monkey viruses [83:159].” Craig Engesser, a spokesman for Lederle Laboratories, a large vaccine manufacturing company, acknowledged that “you can’t test for something if you don’t know it’s there .”
Virus detection techniques were crude and unreliable during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s when polio vaccines were initially produced and dispensed. It wasn’t until the mid 1980s that new and more sophisticated testing procedures were developed [84:5;96]. That was when researchers discovered that about 50 percent of all African green monkeys—the primate of choice for making polio vaccines—were infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a virus closely related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the infectious agent thought to precede AIDS [97-100]. This caused some researchers to wonder whether HIVs may simply be SIVs “residing in and adapting to a human host .” It caused others to suspect that SIV may have mutated into HIV once it was introduced into the human population by way of contaminated polio vaccines [59:54+;96-100;102-104].
Vaccine authorities were so concerned about the possibility that SIV was a precursor to HIV, and that polio vaccines were the means of transmission from monkey to human, that The World Health Organization (WHO) convened two meetings of experts in 1985 to explore the data and consider their options [100,105]. After all, SIV was very similar to HIV and occurred naturally in the monkey species predominantly used by vaccine manufacturers [98,100]. Nevertheless, WHO concluded that the vaccines were safe and insisted that vaccination campaigns should continue unabated [100,105].
Shortly thereafter, Japanese researchers conducted their own investigation and found that African green monkeys used to produce polio vaccines had antibodies against SIV . The implication was clear: monkeys used to produce polio vaccines were natural carriers of a virus that looked and acted like HIV, the infectious agent linked to AIDS. In 1989, they recommended that monkeys infected with SIV not be used to make polio vaccines .
In 1990, wild chimpanzees in Africa were found to be infected with a strain of SIV that was nearly identical to HIV . Some researchers called it “the missing link” to the origins of human immunodeficiency virus . And since chimpanzees were used to test viruses for potential use in vaccines, and were kept in captivity by research laboratories, they could have been a source of vaccine contamination [109,110]. Scientific concerns were also heightened when researchers found some West Africans who were infected with an SIV-like virus that was a fundamental twin to HIV. They called it HIV-2, and like the initial HIV subtype, it was implicated in the development of AIDS . According to Robert Gallo, an expert on the AIDS virus, some versions of the SIV monkey virus are virtually indistinguishable from some human variants of HIV: “The monkey virus is the human virus.
There are monkey viruses as close to isolates of HIV-2 as HIV-2 isolates are to each other [59:106+].” In May 1991, virus-detection techniques were improved once again, and researchers found SIV DNA in the kidneys of infected monkeys . Minced monkey kidneys were (and still are) used to produce the live polio vaccine [3;59:60]. SIV was also found in the cancer cells of an AIDS victim, and in other people as well [113-115]. To many researchers, this trail of evidence had become too persuasive to deny. Apparently, millions of people were infected with monkey viruses capable of causing AIDS , and this cross-species transfer most likely occurred by way of SIV-contaminated polio vaccines [59;84;96-100;102-104;116-119].
10. Didn’t AIDS originate in Africa?
Most historians agree that AIDS originated in Africa . But Salk tested his vaccine in the U.S., and Sabin’s trials were conducted in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union . If tainted polio vaccines were responsible for introducing SIV and
HIV into humans, why did the initial cases of AIDS show up on this remote continent?
In March 1951, several years before Drs. Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin would scuffle over whose vaccine was the true prophylactic, Dr. Hilary Koprowski announced at a medical conference that he had become the first doctor in history to test a polio vaccine on humans. His “volunteers” included several institutionalized children with mental handicaps. They drank the vaccine in chocolate milk .
From 1957 to 1960, after years of tinkering with monkey kidneys and polio germs, Koprowski tested his own experimental polio vaccine on 325,000 equatorial Africans, including 75,000 citizens of Leopoldville, Belgian Congo (now Kinshasa, Zaire)
[59:59;121]. Called by drums, rural natives traveled to local villages where they had a liquid vaccine squirted into their mouths . Ninety-eight percent of the vaccine recipients were infants and toddlers . The youngest children received 15 times the adult dosage [103:98]. Though Koprowski claimed he had the backing of the World Health Organization, WHO denied sanctioning the large-scale trials .
In 1959, Dr. Albert Sabin reported in the British Medical Journal that Koprowski’s polio vaccine used in the African trials contained an “unidentified” cell-killing virus . It was never identified. However, in 1986 the earliest known blood sample containing antibodies against HIV was traced back to 1959. The serum came from a patient visiting a clinic in Leopoldville . There is no evidence that HIV infected humans before 1959 [126,127]. Gerald Myers, a genetic sequencing expert with Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico, tracked the evolution of HIV and confirmed that today’s major subtypes of the AIDS virus in humans appear to have arisen as recently as 1960 .
Koprowski’s vaccine was not approved for human use, so it was discontinued in 1960 following the African trials . Thus, it was only administered to inhabitants of the Belgian Congo, Rwanda and Burundi [104,121]Cthe precise area where high levels of HIV infection were identified by researchers 30 years later . Furthermore, the AIDS virus is known to infect mucous cells, prevalent in the mouth [59:60]. The African vaccines were squirted into people’s mouths. Could squirting an HIV contaminated polio vaccine into people’s mouths cause AIDS? According to Tom Folks, chief retrovirologist at the CDC, “Any time a person has a lesion in his mouth, then there could be transmission” of the virus [59:60]. Dr. Robert Bohannon of Baylor College of Medicine maintains that the process of squirting the polio vaccine into people’s mouths would tend to aerosolize some of the liquid. Tiny drops could then go directly into the lungs, and from there to the blood cells susceptible to infection [59:60]. This would have been an efficient mode of HIV transmission .
Disease experts believe that the average time between HIV infection and the development of AIDS is 8-10 years . If the African polio vaccine was indeed contaminated with SIV/HIV, initial outbreaks of AIDS would have occurred from the mid-
1960s to early 1970s. This period accurately coincides with the emergence of AIDS in equatorial Africa .
11. Test the polio vaccines
Authorities are reluctant to acknowledge the possibility that medical scientists, preoccupied with growing polio vaccines in virus-laden monkey kidneys, may have been responsible for bringing about the AIDS pandemic. For example, Dr. David Heymann, who heads the World Health Organization’s Global Program on AIDS, flatly stated that “the origin of the AIDS virus is of no importance to science today [59:106+].” William Haseltine, a Harvard pathology professor and AIDS researcher also believes that any discussion about the origin of AIDS is distracting and nonproductive. “It’s not relevant,” and “I’m not interested in discussing it [59:106+].” Jonas Salk won’t discuss the subject either. He is now working on an AIDS vaccine [59:55]. Albert Sabin believes “you can’t hang Koprowski with that [59:60].” And Koprowski dismissed the idea with a laugh, then later claimed “this is a highly theoretical situation [59:106+].” However, samples of the polio vaccines used in Africa are kept in freezers at the Wistar Institute where Koprowski did much of his research. They could be tested [59:106+].
Tom Folks of the CDC thinks it’s a good idea to test the seed stocks of polio because “any time we can learn more about the natural history [of AIDS], it helps us understand the pathogenesis and…the transmission [59:106+].” Robert Gallo also thinks it’s
important to determine whether a monkey virus sparked AIDS. Questions like this “are of more than academic interest because answering them may help avoid future zoonotic catastrophes—that is, transmission of disease from lower animals to humans .” Responding to these concerns, some AIDS researchers formally requested samples of the original polio vaccine seed stocks. But the government will neither release nor test them because there are “only a small number of vials” of the material, and tests “might use it all up [59:108].”
12. AIDS within the gay community
If AIDS originated in Africa via contaminated polio vaccines, how did this disease spread to male homosexuals in America? In 1974, clinics in New York and California began experimental treatments for gay men afflicted with herpes. Therapy consisted of multiple doses of the live polio vaccine . As noted earlier, this vaccine was produced in the kidneys of the African Green monkey, a known reservoir for simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a likely precursor to HIV [59;84;97-104]. Beginning in the early 1980s, simultaneous outbreaks of Kaposi sarcoma and serious opportunistic infections (later associated with AIDS) were reported among homosexual men, especially in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles . This time span coincides with the average incubation period between HIV infection and the development of AIDS .
In 1982, the CDC concluded that such outbreaks “strongly suggests the occurrence of a single epidemic of underlying immunosuppression… ” The following year, HIV was identified as the causative agent . And in 1992, Lancet published the first
scientific explanation showing how repeated doses of SIV contaminated polio vaccines may have seeded HIV among American homosexual men .
13. AIDS with no identified risk factor (NIR)
Another unusual event occurred in the 1980s. Hundreds of people diagnosed with AIDS had no identified risk factor (NIR) . They did not engage in risky behaviors related to AIDS infection. The CDC also listed numerous children as NIR . Some parents believe HIV-contaminated polio vaccines infected their loved ones .
On February 12, 1994, Bruce Williams filed a civil suit against the American Cyanamid Company, claiming its polio vaccine caused his daughter’s illness. The suit alleges that “the live oral poliovirus vaccine was produced, tested, and approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration pursuant to measures inconsistent with accepted standards of medical practice.” The lawsuit also asserts that “the product was FDA approved despite the known presence of contaminants, including retroviruses such as HIV .”
Walter Kyle, the Williams’ lawyer, identified the specific lots of vaccine the child received, but the CDC and federal health officials have refused to test them [134:106]. Kyle believes “The CDC could disprove my entire hypothesis by testing the vaccines they have in their possession. The fact that they haven’t done so is evidence there’s something wrong with the vaccine [134:106].”
Some researchers believe the true number of NIR cases could be in the thousands [134,137]. When health officials examine people with AIDS, they try to identify a risk factor. If a patient admits he once had unprotected sex, that becomes his factor, even though there’s no proof that is how he was infected .
The evidence implicating polio vaccines grown in monkey kidneys with our current epidemics of cancer and AIDS continues to grow. But what if polio vaccines were produced in cow serum? Would that make a difference?
UP NEXT: THE POLIO VACCINE AND MAD COW DISEASE – HOW ARE THEY RELATED??
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