Psychol Rep. 2002 Apr ;90(2):639-53. PMID: 12061608
Self-reported changes in subjective health and anthrax vaccination as reported by over 900 Persian Gulf War era veterans.
A 1999 study of United Kingdom servicemembers by Unwin, et al. recently found significant relationships between anthrax and other vaccinations, reactions to those vaccines, and later health problems for male current or former active military Gulf War veterans. Likewise, in 2000 Steele and in 1998 Gilroy found possible adverse effects of vaccinations on Gulf War veterans. However, the role of such vaccinations remains controversial; more recent government reports continue to dispute the existence of any data that might reflect adversely on the role of vaccinations on the health of Gulf War veterans. To address this controversy, the current study assessed similar relationships for over 900 Reserve Component Gulf War Era veterans from Ohio and nearby states. Gulf War veterans were more likely to report poorer health than non-Gulf veterans. Female veterans were more likely to report mild or severe reactions to vaccines than male veterans. Those veterans who received anthrax vaccine reported more reactions to vaccines than those who did not receive anthrax vaccine. Declines in long-term subjective health were associated with receipt of anthrax vaccine by Gulf War veterans but not for those who did not deploy to the Gulf, although few of the latter received anthrax vaccine. Regardless of deployment status, veterans who reported more severe reactions to vaccines were more likely to report declines in subjective health. Female veterans reported poorer health during the Gulf War than did male veterans, but sex was not related to veterans' reports of subjective health at subsequent times. It is recommended that servicemembers who experience severe reactions to anthrax vaccine be medically reevaluated before receiving further anthrax vaccine and that careful follow-ups be conducted of those receiving the vaccine currently, in accordance with Nass's 1999 recommendations. We also recommend that safer alternatives to thimerosal (a mercury sodium salt, 50% mercury) be used to preserve all vaccines.