Saturday, October 23, 2004

Report Says Aussies Given Contaminated Vaccines

Australia probes report that suspect polio virus released to the public
AFP | Oct 23 2004

SYDNEY - Australian authorities moved Saturday to reassure people vaccinated against polio in the 1950s and 1960s after a report that a contaminated vaccine linked to cancer was issued at that time.
Australian Chief Medical Officer, Professor John Horvath, said there was no evidence of an increased cancer risk to those exposed to the vaccine, produced between 1956 and 1962.
The Age newspaper said it had uncovered evidence that almost three million doses of the Salk polio vaccine made then were contaminated by a monkey virus linked to a range of cancers.
Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, then a government agency, released at least four batches of the vaccine knowing they were contaminated with the virus, called Simian Virus 40 or SV40, the paper said.
Internal research conducted by the laboratories in 1962, but never made public, reportedly showed the monkey virus was a potential cause of cancer in humans.
Scientists linked the virus, which came from pulped infected monkey kidneys used to produce cell cultures to grow the polio virus, to a range of rare human lung, brain and blood cancers.
The paper said the laboratories produced more than 18 million doses of the vaccine, enough to vaccinate six million Australians, between 1956 and 1962.
By 1965, 90 percent of Australian children aged between five and 14 had been injected with the vaccine.
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories was privatised in 1994.
Horvath said however that there had been no link between the vaccine and an increased risk of cancer.
“This issue was reviewed at an international workshop on SV40 in the USA in January 1997,” he said in a statement.
“The meeting concluded that there is no evidence of increased cancer risk in people who were given vaccine containing SV40.
“Much research had been undertaken overseas since that time. In 1997 and again in 2001 Australian health authorities reviewed the most up-to-date literature and came to the same conclusion,” he said.