Autopsy Links Death to Anthrax Vaccine
Friday, Sept. 29,
LANSING, Mich. Bioport
Corp., the only producer of anthrax vaccine used by the U.S. military, Thursday
said it was shocked an autopsy linked an employee's death to the controversial
A company spokesman said Wednesday's
statement by the Ionia County medical examiner was the first time in 30 years
the vaccine had been connected to a death. More than 2.5 million doses of the
vaccine have been administered.
Richard Dunn, 61, worked for BioPort for two
years and its predecessor, state-owned Michigan Biologic Products Institute,
for six years caring for and monitoring test animals.
He was given the vaccine the same used by
the military to protect soldiers from the deadly biological agent 11 times,
the last time in April. He died July 7.
The Lansing State Journal said Chief Medical
Examiner Dr. Robert Joyce said the autopsy showed Dunn had an
"inflammatory response" to the vaccine that caused his entire body to
swell, but there was no sign of anthrax bacteria in his body.
The cause of death was listed as ventricular
arrhythmia, a rapid heartbeat.
"We were stunned to learn yesterday of
a statement by the Ionia County Medical Examiner linking Dick's death to the
anthrax vaccine," BioPort's chief operating officer Bob Kramer said.
"Those of us who work here are
confident that there is no connection between his death and the anthrax
Dr. Joyce said Dunn's reaction to the
vaccine had contributed to his death.
Kramer said BioPort had not seen the autopsy
results, which were performed by a Grand Rapids pathologist, and had requested
a copy to conduct its own investigation of tissue samples taken from Dunn.
Many of the laboratory's 210 employees have
taken the vaccine which requires an annual booster shot for years.
The Pentagon said nearly 488,000 people had
taken nearly 2 million doses of the anthrax vaccine this year. About 400
military personnel have resigned or faced discipline for refusing to take the
vaccine, which is administered in six doses.
A Defense Department spokesman said the
government was "obviously concerned" about the report but would
continue to administer the vaccine.
BioPort bought the former state-owned
laboratory in 1998 and has not yet received U.S. Food and Drug Administration
approval to make new vaccine.
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