Albion Monitor /Features
[Editor's note: For a related article, see The Tainted History of the DPT Vaccine , also by Harold Stearley.]

Killer Vaccine

by Harold Stearley

Another virus was present as well: Simian Virus 40, known to cause brain cancer in research animals
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a dark cloud hung over America: polio. The virus was taking a savage toll, with thousands of children and adults crippled or killed.

A solution appeared in 1955, when Jonas Salk astounded the medical world by discovering how to mass produce polio vaccine by growing it on the kidneys of rhesus monkeys. While there is no question that the Salk vaccine saved thousands from the ravages of polio, problems surfaced -- a health crisis which haunts our nation today.

By 1960 they knew that when the live polio virus grown on monkey tissues was extracted for the vaccine, another virus was present as well: Simian Virus 40, known to cause brain cancer in research animals. The polio vaccine was contaminated.

It appears our government didn't wish to create a public panic or to discredit the public health service. Instead of recalling the tainted vaccines, it quietly ordered the manufacturers to continue production and find a monkey free of SV-40. By 1963 a safer polio vaccine was in production; the rhesus monkey had been replaced with the African green monkey. But between 1955 and 1963, as many as 98 million Americans had received the contaminated SV-40 polio vaccines.

Italian researchers found the monkey virus in between 14 and 83 percent of human brain tumors
Flash ahead to Loyola University in the early 1990s. Michele Carbone, Assistant Professor of Pathology, isolated fragments of SV-40 in human cancers. The viral contaminate from the 1950s appeared in up to 40 percent of bone cancers and 60 percent of mesotheliomas, a particularly nasty form of lung cancer. He believed this could explain why half of the current mesotheliomas being treated were no longer linked with their traditional cause -- asbestos exposure.

Senior epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Howard Strickler, used maps to help confirm the link between cancers and the tainted vaccine. People who lived in Massachusetts and Illinois who received identified lot numbers of the contaminated vaccine administered in the 1950s are now demonstrating ten times the rate of the osteosarcoma bone tumors as those who received vaccine free of the SV-40 contaminate in other parts of the country.

Already sounding like bad science fiction, more terrible news was yet to come. Italian researchers found the monkey virus in between 14 and 83 percent of human brain tumors.

Casting their net wider, studies began looking for the virus in normal individuals -- meaning people free of disease at the time of testing. SV-40 was found in 23 percent of blood samples and almost half of all sperm tested -- the virus could be transmitted sexually and through blood transfusions. Being a blood-borne organism, it is also suspected that it passes from mother to fetus.

This led to discovery of the worst news of all: SV-40 has appeared in 61 percent of all new cancer patients -- patients too young to have received the contaminated vaccine administered forty years ago.

The only cases of polio occurring in the United States for the past seventeen years have been caused by the vaccine itself
Questions should also be raised about today's polio vaccinations, required of every American infant and child by the Food and Drug Administration. While public health officials continue to emphasize the safety of current supplies of the vaccine, Peter Reeve, FDA Virologist, acknowledges that the administration abandoned independent testing of vaccine purity some fifteen years ago -- that all quality assurance is done by the manufacturers the vaccines with no federal oversight.

The government may not pay attention to the quality of these vaccines, but they have formulated a plan for their distribution. Federal vaccination policy advocated the use of live-virus oral polio vaccine (OPV) based on the belief the live virus shed in the body fluids of immunized infants would protect others through contact.

The Centers for Disease Control insisted this was a safe practice, and emphasized that no one previously vaccinated could contract the disease in this manner. The public was never informed of this strategy, however, and no consent was ever obtained from the unknowing participants in this vaccination scheme. One hundred and twenty people, many previously vaccinated, contracted polio as a result of this practice.

Adding insult to injury, the World Health Organization proclaimed that polio was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 1994. The only cases of polio occurring in the United States for the past seventeen years have been caused by the vaccine itself.

It's not that all polio vaccine is unsafe; the injectable form of the vaccine (IPV) does not use a live virus and can't transmit the disease. But Wyeth-Lederle controls the supply of all the oral form of the vaccine in this country, with last year's sales about $230 million dollars. Wyeth lobbied hard against the CDC recommending increased use of IVP, which is made by a competitor.

Yet in 1996, the CDC changed its recommendation from four doses of OPV to two doses each of IVP and OPV. Physicians can still give all four doses of OPV if they desire -- and often, they do.

IVP vaccine costs $5.40 per dose, more than twice the OPV cost of $2.32 per dose. With the difference in cost favoring the use of OPV, and the current climate of regulating health care costs, clearer guidelines must come from the government if they truly expect to increase the use of the safer IVP vaccine.


Berleur, M. P., & Cordier, S. (1995). The Role of Chemical, Physical, or Viral Exposures and Health Factors in Neurocarcinogenesis: Implications for Epidemiologic Studies of Brain Tumors. Cancer Causes and Control, 6(3), 240-256.

Bookchin, D., & Schumaker, J. (1997). Tainted Polio Vaccine Still Carries Its Threat 40 Years Later. The Boston Globe, January 26.

Carbone, M., et al. (1996). SV-40 Like Sequences in Human Bone Tumors. Oncogene, 13(3), 527-535.

Elswood, B. F., & Stricker, R. B. (1995). Polio Vaccines and the Origin of AIDS. Medical Hypotheses, 42(6), 347-354.

Fisher, B. L. (1997). Workshop on Simian Virus 40: A Possible Human Polyomavirus. National Vaccine Information Center, January 27, On-line at

Krieg, P., Amtmann E, Jonas, D., Fischer, H., Zang, K., & Sauer G. (1981). Episomal Simian Virus 40 Genomes in Human Brain Tumors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 78(10), 6446-6450.

Lednicky, J. A., Garcea, R. L., Bergsagel, D. J., & Butel, J. S. (1995). Natural Simian Virus 40 Strains are Present in Human choroid Plexus and Ependymoma tumors. Virology, 212(2), 710-717.

Martini, F., et al. (1995). Human Brain Tumors and Simian Virus 40. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 87(17), 1331.

Martini, F., et al. (1996). SV-40 Early Region and Large T Antigen in Human Brain Tumors, Peripheral Blood Cells, and Sperm Fluids From Healthy Individuals. Cancer Research, 56(20), 4820-4825. Pass, H. I., Kennedy, R. C., & Carbone, M. (1996). Evidence for and Implications of SV-40 Like Sequences in Human Mesotheliomas. Important Advances in Oncology, 89-108.

Rock, A. (1996). The Lethal Dangers of the Billion Dollar Vaccine Business. Money, December, pages 148-163.

Tognon, M., et al. (1996). Large T Antigen Coding Sequences of Two DNA Tumor Viruses, BK and SV-40, and Nonrandom Chromosome Changes in Two Glioblastoma Cell Lines. Cancer Genetics and Cytogenics, 90(1), 17-23.

The controversy of contaminated polio vaccine is far from over. Microbiologist Howard Urnovitz provided significant evidence at the Eighth Annual Houston Conference on AIDS that human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is a monkey hybrid virus which was produced when 320 thousand Africans were injected with polio virus contaminated with live simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in the late 1950s. Apparently viral fragments combine easily with other viruses to produce these hybrids called chimeras.

This theory was confirmed by another research team at the University of California in San Francisco. But curiously, when two researchers applied to the National Institutes of Health for grants to confirm the presence of SIV and another monkey contaminant in polio vaccines, they were turned down. Why?

"Almost 100 million Americans were exposed (to SV-40) through a government sponsored program," Dr. Urnovitz told the Boston Globe. "But for over 30 years, there has been virtually no government effort to see if anyone's been harmed by the exposure...The government will not fund science that makes it look culpable."

Harold Stearley, R.N., B.S.N., A.S.B., CCRN, has held various clinical and supervisory positions over his two-decade career. His articles on "managed care" and the crisis in nursing have appeared in many nursing journals, and he was the author of "Nursing on the Edge," a multi-part series which appeared in the Monitor last year.

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Albion Monitor August 20, 1997 (

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