12. Millions of Americans Received Contaminated Polio Vaccine Between 1955 and 1963

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Sources: CHICAGO LIFE Title: “Ticking Time Bomb,” Date: October 1997, Author: Vicky Angelos;http://www.sightings.com/ health/salk.htm, Title: “The Forty Year Legacy of Tainted Polio Vaccine,”
Date: May 14, 1998, Author: Harold Stearley

SSU Censored Researcher: Jennifer Mintz
SSU Faculty Evaluator: Mary King, M.D.

The polio vaccine that was given to millions of children during the late 1950s and early 1960s may be causing rare cancerous tumors in adults today.

The once hailed “miracle” vaccine was contaminated by a virus called Simian Virus 40 (SV40) between the years of 1955 and 1963. The virus hid in the renal cells of the monkeys which were used to make the vaccine. SV40 has been linked to rare, incurable cancers such as ependymomas (brain tumors), mesotheliomas (pleural tumors, usually of the lung), and osteosarcomas (bone malignancies).

The author quotes from the December 1996 issue of Money magazine: “Federal regulators have stymied many efforts to investigate the impact of those monkey viruses but are now paying attention to particularly disturbing research by a Chicago molecular pathologist linking one to human cancer. This is the same monkey virus that a new Italian study suggests is being passed on sexually by people throughout the world, and from mothers to babies in the womb.” One study estimates that 25 percent of the population today is carrying the SV40 virus.

A 1960 study (the only one previously existing) on SV40 and its possible cancer connection noted that it tested all victims of common cancers, not rare cancers. Rare cancers such as those listed above remain latent for 10-40 years and could not be detected in the 1960 study.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) claims that the agency is not ignoring public concern over SV40. A spokeswoman for the NCI says that no batches of the Salk Vaccine produced after 1961 contained SV40, but that previously existing batches may have circulated until 1963. When asked if there was a recall of the contaminated batches in 1961, she had no comment.

SV40 genes and proteins were discovered in 60 percent of patients with cancer, writes author Vicky Angelos. “Unless one was an animal handler or a lab technician, or had worked in the jungles of India or the Philippines, there was only one logical way to be exposed to SV40: the polio vaccine handed out by our government.”

The National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are “all aware of the possible link between cancer and the polio vaccine.” It has been suggested that SV40 may be responsible for the 30 percent increase in brain tumors in the United States over the last 20 years.

Because of recent legal actions, attention is now being focused on the correlation between rare cancers and SV40. Two attorneys who once represented businesses that were being sued by cancer patients with pleural mesotheliomas, now represent the patients. By examining maps of the states which received high levels of SV40 tainted vaccines, the pair found links between the SV40 and these rare cancers. What they have discovered is that the NCI tested stored batches of the vaccine and that shipments made between May and June of 1955 were “heavily contaminated,” says Angelos.

The link between SV40 and polio may be the next “asbestos” for attorneys. There is now evidence of high levels of disease in people born before 1940 and after 1965 who received SV40 during vaccination.

Mainstream media has mentioned this story over the years, but never fully developed it. In January of 1998, Associated Press and several newspapers in the United States carried a press release by the National Cancer Institute claiming that a 30-year study found that children exposed to SV40 did not have higher cancer rates as adults. The headline read “No Cancers Tied to 50s Polio Vaccine” (Chicago Tribune January 28, 1998). A story carried by PR newswire on January 27, 1998, released by the National Vaccine Information Center, which criticized the National Cancer Institute’s study as a biased, premature dismissal of the polio vaccine issue, failed to receive coverage in the mainstream media.

UPDATE BY AUTHOR VICKY ANGELOS AND PUBLISHER PAM BERNS: “It is known that Simian Virus 40 (SV40) has tumor-causing effects in hamsters. A scientific study conducted in 1959 by Ben Sweet proved the virus had jumped the species barrier from monkeys to hamsters. The question remains: Does it have the same effect on humans? The answer is crucial to the 80-90 percent of U.S. children that were injected at least once with variable amounts of SV40 in contaminated batches of the Salk polio vaccine in the 1950s.

“Today, a multi-institutional study supported by the International Mesothelioma Interest Group confirms the presence of SV40 in humans, with rare forms of cancer, such as malignant mesotheliomas. The study printed in Cancer Research on October 15, 1998, suggests a ‘co-carcinogenic interaction between SV40 and asbestos in humans should be carefully tested in future investigations.’ The study goes on to state, ‘If SV40 and asbestos are co-carcinogens, people who are SV40-positive may be at a higher risk of developing mesothelioma when exposed to asbestos. Identifying individuals at higher risk may offer opportunities for prevention.’

“The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released ‘Contamination of Poliovirus Vaccines with Simian Virus 40 (1955-1963) and Subsequent Cancer Rates’ in January 1998. NIH official Howard D. Strickler, M.D. and others announced in JAMA that exposure to a polio virus vaccine contaminated with live SV40 did not increase the risk of cancer in ependymomas and other brain cancers, osteosarcomas, and mesotheliomas.

“Michele Carbone, M.D., Ph.D., of Loyola Medical Center and one of the pioneers in SV40 detection in rare tumors, questioned the JAMA Strickler study, citing new methodologies soon to be published and his research concerning the co-carcinogenic interaction between SV40 and asbestos.

“The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) also criticized the JAMA Strickler study for the ‘inherent conflict of interest in having government officials lead investigations of health problems associated with vaccines which the government researches, regulates, and promotes for universal use,’ and because the study depended heavily on cancer statistics provided by the National Cancer Institute, which began collecting data in 1973. (Thus, children who received contaminated polio vaccines and died of cancer before 1973 were excluded from the data included in the analysis.) NVIC questioned the government’s analysis because it reflected less than one-tenth of the nation. It was therefore not a complete reflection of cancer rates in the entire U.S. population. Moreover, NVIC claimed that their study ignored the fact that ‘the SV40 virus DNA has been detected in cancers of children born during the past five years’—which suggests that government scientists do not actually know how SV40 is transmitted from person-to-person or parent-to-child. Finally, NVIC criticized the government study because it also dismissed the evidence that ‘SV40 and asbestos could be cofactors in the development of mesothelioma’ and cited the rising cases of mesothelioma despite the fact that the population studied has not reached the peak age when these tumors tend to occur.

“Epidemiologist Susan Gross Fisher, Ph.D., of Loyola Medical Center also disagreed with JAMA’s conclusions, stating that ‘[t]he analysis by Strickler et al. provides no reliable evidence regarding the presence or absence of an increased cancer risk relative to SV40 exposure.’ Dr. Fisher explained that because of the unavailability of specific data regarding the actual population exposed and the amount of the virus in the vaccines, data will remain incomplete. She said also that because of the small case numbers of these rare cancers, research funding will probably remain limited. However, she said, ‘molecular study is warranted for SV40 and other viruses to understand the exact role these viruses play in cancer development.“‘

For more information, contact the cancer centers for the following universities: Loyola University Cardinal Bernadin Cancer Center, Maywood, Illinois; Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland; Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer. Also contact the NVIC at (703) 938-0342.