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Smallpox Vaccine Recipients Died From Heart Inflammation, Autopsies Find
Several U.S. military personnel who received a smallpox vaccination died from heart inflammation, and others hadn’t recovered from the same inflammation years after first experiencing the condition...
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By Zachary Stieber May 20, 2023
Several U.S. military personnel who received a smallpox vaccination died from heart inflammation, and others hadn’t recovered from the same inflammation years after first experiencing the condition, an in-depth review of medical records has found.
Autopsies of two male military members in their 20s who suddenly died showed that they had heart inflammation, or myocarditis. There were also signs that heart inflammation contributed to the deaths of two others, one an 18-year-old male and the other a 23-year-old female.
Researchers also found that 348 members survived myocarditis or a related condition, pericarditis, but that it took at least months for each to recover, with some still not having recovered years later.
Some 2.5 million service members received a smallpox vaccine between Dec. 1, 2002, and Dec. 31, 2016, the time period covered in the study.
The lead researcher of the study, which was published by PLOS One in May, declined to comment. Nearly all of the researchers are employed by the Defense Health Agency (DHA). They wrote in the paper that the findings “draw attention to potential long-term morbidity and possible chronic … or recurrent … symptoms in pericarditis and myocarditis.”
The U.S. Department of Defense, of which the DHA is part, declined to comment. The DHA didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment. Its website doesn’t include the newly reported information.
Researchers combed through health care records and other documents from cases reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. The cases, which were verified or designated as suspected after the research was conducted, were among members who received the Dryvax or ACAM2000 smallpox vaccine between Dec. 1, 2002, and Dec. 31, 2016.
While more than 5,000 adverse events following smallpox vaccination were reported, researchers narrowed down the list by applying the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention case definitions for myocarditis and pericarditis from 2003. They identified 352 cases, including the four deaths. For each case, they reviewed documents such as health care records and confirmed that some of the patients suffered from myocarditis or pericarditis. They indicated that others were suspected of suffering from one of the conditions.
Researchers then looked at additional records to see whether each member had recovered and, if they had, how long the recovery took.
Out of 306 cases with follow-up data, just 16 recovered in six weeks or less. An additional 194 recovered by one year. But 67 didn’t recover until one year or later, and 39 never fully recovered, according to the most recent data available.
Researchers noted that most members recovered, even if it took a long time.
“Myocarditis/pericarditis following the smallpox vaccine is associated with full clinical and functional ventricular recovery in over 87 percent of cases,” they wrote.
Some of the members, however, “experienced prolonged or incomplete recovery beyond 1 year,” the researchers acknowledged.
Heart inflammation usually triggers a hospital visit, and patients are usually told to stop exercising for a period of time, among other restrictions. Symptoms can include fatigue, irregular heartbeat, and disease of the heart muscle. Several experts said it was good news that most patients recovered, but the lengthy recovery time, the fact that the condition was chronic for dozens of members, and the deaths sparked concerns.
Dr. Andrew Bostom, a heart expert in Rhode Island who wasn’t involved in the research, told The Epoch Times that it’s “concerning” that the 39 members hadn’t recovered, particularly given that those affected are “healthy young people that easily could have gotten away without getting the vaccine.”
The number of deaths was small, but those deaths are further proof that vaccine-induced myocarditis can kill even previously healthy people.
Researchers said that for the two sudden deaths, there was very strong evidence that myocarditis was the cause. Autopsies and other information uncovered “no other causes,” they wrote.
One of the service members, a 26-year-old white male, had zero cardiac risk factors. He began showing symptoms such as fever and chills 10 days after receiving a smallpox vaccine. He suddenly died six days later.
The other member was a 24-year-old white male with one cardiac risk factor and a higher body mass index. He suddenly died 12 days after vaccination, the same day he was hospitalized.
The third death was an 18-year-old black male with no cardiac risk factors. The member experienced fatigue and other symptoms during a five-mile run eight days after vaccination. He was resuscitated and rushed to a hospital but died five days later.
The other death was a 23-year-old black female with no cardiac risk factors who reported symptoms such as shortness of breath 10 days after vaccination and was hospitalized. She died 22 days later. There were signs that myocarditis contributed to the third and fourth deaths, according to researchers.
All four members who died were, according to medical records, in good health, “meeting military physical fitness standards, and without diagnoses impacting the ability to deploy or receive the SPV,” or smallpox vaccine.
Although some smallpox vaccines were administered earlier, the military started a larger program in 2002 through which members deemed potentially at risk of a bioterrorism attack receive a smallpox vaccination. That led to millions of members receiving a vaccine.
In 2018, the military suspended mandatory administration of the anthrax and smallpox vaccines, with limited exceptions, but some members are still being vaccinated.
Heart issues are a known side effect of the smallpox vaccines. Myocarditis and pericarditis occur in approximately 1 in 175 first-time recipients of ACAM2000, which has been available since 2008, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Prospective military recipients of the vaccines are asked whether they have a history of heart conditions, and administrators are warned to keep an eye out for vaccine-associated heart problems within 30 days of vaccination.
Insight Into Myocarditis After COVID-19 Vaccination?
COVID-19 vaccines also cause myocarditis, particularly in young males. Some of those myocarditis patients have died. Long-term data for vaccinated people who suffered myocarditis is scarce, but available data have shown that not all sufferers recover quickly.
About half of the cardiac MRIs conducted on 151 patients after at least 90 days showed abnormalities, such as scarring, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers reported in 2022.
In an update shared this year, the researchers revealed that 23 percent of 60 patients who responded to surveys said they were experiencing chest pain for one year or more after vaccination.
In the new paper, the military researchers said their findings, including the lack of recovery in some people and the lengthy recovery in others, “appear similar to cases” after COVID-19 vaccination.
“However, long-term outcomes remain to be defined and may need to include prolonged stress reactions associated with an acute case of [myocarditis/pericarditis] in a previously healthy and fit [vaccine recipient],” they said.
If the study’s data end up being similar to the cases among COVID-19 vaccine recipients, “that’s not very reassuring,” Bostom said.