The Virus and the Vaccine 

Contaminated Vaccine, Deadly Cancers, and Government Neglect

by Debbie Bookchin & Jim Schumacher


Review by
Mira de Vries

One of my earliest recollections dates back to when I was a preschooler in the mid fifties. My parents took me to my brother’s school, where we entered what to me seemed like a huge hall. It was crowded with other children and their parents. In the middle of the hall stood a row of long tables, end to end. Enormous trays of pink-dotted sugar cubes, stacked up like little building blocks, covered the tables. As already then I had a sweet tooth, little effort was required to persuade me to eat a sugar cube. From that memorable moment until I read this book, I was mercifully unaware that the pink dot contained an extract of ... minced monkey kidney.

The main character and villain of this book is SV40. The S stands for simian, a fancy word for monkey. The V stands for virus. The number 40 expresses that this is the fortieth simian virus claimed to be discovered. The first thirty-nine are considered innocuous. We are not told whether there ever was a forty-first, though there is mention of several variants of SV40.

Salk and Sabin, whose names we associate with the polio vaccine, are mentioned frequently. So are many lesser known virologists and researchers. The ones the authors (a married couple, according to the back) admire are described in detail, including their looks, their birthplace, their ancestry, their personalities, and even their habits.

Although long lists of sources are provided, the text is devoid of distracting footnotes. On the other hand an inconsistency in font size, apparently a printing bug, does distract.

As the plot unfolds, SV40 is discovered stowing away in Sabin's polio vaccine. This would mean that he loses his competition with Salk, were it not that afterward the same stowaway is discovered in Salk's vaccine too. Then is found a “body” … tumors that proliferate around the site of injection. SV40 is accused of causing a killer cancer, albeit so far only in laboratory rodents.

The government's virus police respond by defending the suspect. There is no stowaway. The careless researchers are seeing reflections. And anyway SV40 is harmless to humans.

They are no doubt sincere. It is their job to protect the public against the evil of illness. No one would want to see the return of polio. They are of course also understandably not eager to admit they let a murderer slip by on their watch. Furthermore, there is a multimillion dollar business to protect. And the geneticists, like philosophers, are on their side. Isn't the source of all evil in the genes?

Meanwhile SV40 is reportedly showing up in the tumors of humans of all ages, even decades after it is believed to have been eradicated from the vaccine. Is it being transmitted to children before birth by their vaccinated mothers? Or is it transmitted through sexual contact? Is the vaccine not cleared of the virus after all? Or has it always existed in the human population?

The authors express certainty about SV40's guilt. A judge may be more inclined to allow it the benefit of doubt. When you have to magnify a thing fifty thousand times to see it, the chance that you are misinterpreting what you see is about as large as the chance of being wrong that an “Egyptian funerary carving from the eighteenth dynasty (1580 - 1350 B.C.E.) portrays a priest with a withered limb [due to polio].” Detections made by complicated computers are as likely to be reliable as computer-generated translations. The claim that SV40 “turns off tumor suppressor genes known as p53” is made as glibly as though an intruder is caught red-handed turning off the burglar-alarm. Labeling it “the most potent human carcinogens that we know” makes it sound like Jack the Ripper. The rise of a particular rare type of cancer “from near zero in the mid 1950s to several thousand cases annually in the 1990s” could have reasons other than exposure to polio vaccine, for instance new diagnostic criteria or a vast increase in toxins in the air, water, or food chain. Missing, probably because it was never done, is an epidemiological study comparing the incidence of disease believed to be caused by SV40 in the general population to that in populations who do not vaccinate on principle.

Concern for the welfare of the monkeys is not an issue dealt with in this book though there is mention of difficulty obtaining shipments of Rhesus monkeys from northern India because the local population consider them holy.

So is or is not SV40 from the polio vaccine a killer? On the basis of this book, I remain undecided. It was certainly stupid of governments across the globe to expose the majority of the human population to a substance of which the long-term effects could not possibly have been known. Thanks to luck, not governmental regulation, humanity was spared from annihilation. Even if the allegations against SV40 are true, it can hardly be considered a mass murderer compared to the massive opportunity thrust upon it. The deaths attributed to it are rare, which of course does not console the individuals so affected and their families.

Contrary to most books I review, this one ends with conclusions that I fully endorse:
“The decisions of our health policy makers, even when well intentioned, are not always enlightened. And sometimes those decisions are not even well intentioned. Sometimes they are based on bias or inadequate scientific evidence. Sometimes they are influenced by the close relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and the government health officials who are charged with regulating that industry. Moreover, sometimes even the best scientists can make mistakes. The safest medical products can have unforeseen side effects ... For that reason, individuals, not governments, must maintain the right to control what medical procedures they and their children undergo and what pharmaceuticals they consume.”

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