One of the most politically-connected yet scandal ridden vaccine companies in the united states, with troubling ties to the 2001 anthrax attacks and opioid crisis, is set to profit handsomely from the current coronavirus crisis.
by Whitney Webb and Raul Diego
Part 9 - Hauer and HHS
As the anthrax attacks unfolded, Hauer advised Secretary Thompson to establish a new office at HHS, the Office of Public Health Preparedness (OPHP), whose first acting director was Dr. D.A. Henderson, a former official with the World Health Organization and the original founder of the Johns Hopkins Working Group on Civilian Biodefense, which had sponsored Dark Winter and included Jerome Hauer as well as Dark Winter co-authors Tara O’Toole and Thomas Inglesby. In early 2002, Hauer himself would replace Henderson as head of the newly created OPHP.
In May 2002, Hauer — while leading OPHP — co-authored a report with members of the Johns Hopkins Working Group, including O’Toole and Inglesby. In that paper, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Hauer, O’Toole, Inglesby and their co-authors argued that greater production and purchase of anthrax vaccine was necessary in light of the 2001 anthrax attacks and that government funding was also needed to research a new anthrax vaccine. They also asserted that the vaccine did not cause any significant adverse effects.
Notably, just months prior, O’Toole and Inglesby had come under scrutiny in their attempts to link the anthrax attacks to Al Qaeda, several months after that possibility had been ruled out completely by federal investigators and other independent scientists.
The paper authored by the Johns Hopkins Working Group would also come under scrutiny, particularly their recommendation that the government acquire more BioThrax. This was largely because the evidence from the attacks showed that antibiotics were much more effective and less expensive in responding to anthrax attacks, with subsequent studies claiming that calls for stockpiling more BioThrax “defy medical evidence and expert recommendations” based on lessons learned during the anthrax attacks.
Then, in June 2002, the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act was signed into law by President Bush, creating the post of Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness, which was quickly filled by Hauer and gave him near-complete power over HHS’ biodefense policy and all HHS matters related to “national security.”
In July 2002, Hauer and his deputy William Raub helped push the Pentagon to restart vaccinating the troops, despite long-standing concerns over the vaccine’s safety. Per the new immunization program, the number of troops being vaccinated would “jump,” according to officials. However, the size of that increase was never made public. In addition, half of the Pentagon’s BioThrax purchases would be stockpiled for civilian use.
Though Hauer, O’Toole, Inglesby, the Pentagon and, of course, BioPort, continued to assert that BioThrax was safe for human use, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) would release its findings just months later that showed that the vaccine “caused adverse reactions in most recipients [85%] and helped prompt many Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard members to transfer to other units or leave the military between 1998 and 2000.” The Pentagon and HHS rejected the GAO’s conclusions.
Despite rejections from the Pentagon and HHS, the number of veterans suffering ill effects from BioThrax continued to mount. Even mainstream sources began to report on claims linking BioThrax to over 20 deaths and over 4,000 illnesses, 347 of which were deemed to be “serious.”
As a result, in March 2003, six military service-members and Defense Department civilian contractors sued the Pentagon, HHS and the FDA over the mandatory BioThrax vaccination policy, claiming that the way the vaccine had been administered in the 1990s and in the early 2000s was experimental.
This claim was based on the fact the FDA had not approved BioThrax for use against aerosol exposure to anthrax (i.e. anthrax inhalation). However, the Pentagon was using BioThrax to ostensibly protect soldiers from exposure to aerosol anthrax, which is the form of anthrax that would be encountered by soldiers in a bioweapon or bioterrorist scenario. Thus, the Pentagon was injecting soldiers with BioThrax for a use for which it was not federally approved, rendering its use experimental. Given that the federal mandating of experimental vaccines is illegal, a federal judge ruled that the Pentagon’s mandatory Biothrax vaccination program was illegal in October 2004.
The ruling was a blow to BioPort, which had reorganized that year and took on the name Emergent BioSolutions. However, BioPort/Emergent BioSolutions would find relief in 2006, when the Pentagon decided to resume mandatory anthrax immunizations among U.S. servicemen soon after the FDA decided to approve BioThrax as a treatment for anthrax inhalation.