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Three Med School professors have charged that current criticisms of the swine flu vaccination program are unfounded and said they would have begun the shots even had they known about the paralysis that has killed several recipients of the vaccine.
Robert H. Ebert, dean of the Med School, John F. Enders, University Professor Emeritus, and David D. Rutstein '30, Professor Emeritus at the Med School, and three other distinguished epidemiologists said in a letter published in Monday's New York Times that all indications in early 1976 were that only a massive vaccination program would prevent a possible epidemic.
"The 'retrospectoscope' is a powerful weapon, but all normal safeguards were taken before they started the program," he said.
Rutstein said yesterday federal health officials administered the vaccine to eight to ten thousand subjects before beginning the nationwide program, which reached over 40 million people, and fears that the vaccine would not be available until after the epidemic's start limited testing time.
Rutstein said the risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome paralysis from the inoculation was small when weighed against the damage that a full-scale epidemic might have caused.
"There's nothing you can do that does not involve risk. Aspirin involves a higher risk than a swine flu shot," he said.
About six people have died and about 250 people have become seriously ill after receiving a swine flu inoculation.
But Alexander D. Langmuir '31, Visiting Professor of Epidemiology at the Med School, said yesterday he "would have to think long and hard" if given the choice of implementing the program with the facts now known about the shots.
Langmuir participated as a consultant in a study advocating the vaccination program which appeared just before the program began and was chief epidemiologist at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta for about 21 years.
Langmuir said he "liked the idea" of stockpiling a sufficient amount of the vaccine to inoculate every adult and only administering the vaccine to high-risk people--the old and those with respiratory diseases--but that this option was politically undesirable.
"Congress wouldn't have let us stockpile $135 million of vaccine and then not use it if an epidemic didn't develop," he said
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