Jet Injectors = Jet Infectors
January 3, 2016
Jet infectors?! In reading a transcript to a FDA Panel Discussion on jet injectors, I was surprised by an error. Being late at night, I readjusted my eyes to see if I was mistaken by what I saw. On the contents page, the stenographer titled the discussion— “Guidance Development for Jet Infectors” (FDA, 1999). The stenographer, intending to write Jet Injector, had mistakenly, yet simply and accurately captured the reality of these devices. Jet Infectors have the potential to infect subsequent vaccinees. The symbolism is perfect.
Many veterans can easily recall that remarkable impression of the jet infector from their memory and many have questioned the sterility of the procedure. The Internet is filled with message boards, chat rooms, and blogs of veterans calling-out en masse the jet injector as the etiological cause of his or her hepatitis C (HCV). Here are several of these veterans’ statements.
“Are there any Hep C positive veterans out there who received vaccinations with the air injector gun while on active duty in the early 1970’s or late 1960’s? The veteran population from that time period has a high prevalence of Hepatitis C and some believe that the air injector method of giving vaccinations used at that time might be the cause. I was in the Marine Corps from ’70 to ’74 and remember being vaccinated with this method where we were simply lined up and injected one by one by stepping forward to the injection station. The air injector gun shot gave a high pressure pre-measured dose through the skin on the upper arm. The end of the air gun that touched the arm could not have been sterile as I remember seeing bleeding arms on some after the shot was given” (Brandej, 2001).
“I was in the US Army in 1975, given vaccinations many times with air jet guns– both single and combo dose–stood in the same line, injected one by one by stepping forward to the injection station just as you were. I saw the same trickles of blood dripping down the arms of the people in front of me as well. Nothing was used to clean the injector between people. That would have been untimely and not expedient. I was also given oral surgery with instruments that were not heat sterilized. That was my second risk factor, and yes, I had hep C and had to undergo treatment. Have been done for 1 year and 1 month. Virus is gone…If you haven’t been checked specifically for it, get checked, as symptoms often don’t show up until it’s too late. Good luck to you” (Skydog007, 2008).
“I was in the military from ’63-’67. If I remember correctly the air-pressure injections had just come in to service. I too remember the lines and the medics merely rubbing off the droplets of blood as they ran down your arm. I never saw a medic sterilize the gun itself. You simply were herded through like cattle. Also, if you made a fast turn for some reason you were apt to receive a small tear” (Hawkbill, 2008).
“At Fort Bliss the guys giving shots were private first class men with no real medical education. You walked up they blasted your arm and the next guy walked up and got his dose. They did not even wipe your arm with a sterile pad. The whole idea was to inoculate as many as quickly as they could” (Pete53, 2010).
“Stories about immunizations by jet injector take me back to basic training. I remember being part of a long line of recruits. As we were being looped around the room to each injection station, I remember seeing a number of people in front of me with blood running down their arm after receiving injections. After I was injected, blood ran down my arm. No attempts were made to wipe down any of the jet injectors” (Vync, 2010).
“I truly believe I contacted HCV from the military by way of the mass immunizations using the unsanitary air jet injector in 1974 at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. Statistics…show that 63 percent of Vietnam-Era veterans were infected with HCV. These statistics are very strong evidence to support my belief! I actually have a scar on my arm from a shot using the air jet injector. My history is that I do not have any tattoos or injected drugs. In 1982, I had an abnormal liver enzyme reading from a medical exam. Nothing was found after many different tests to try to determine the cause of the readings. During this timeframe, the medical establishment did not know about HCV. Finally in 2005, my doctor was doing some blood work on me which showed abnormal liver enzymes. He immediately had my blood tested for HCV. I started Pegasys/ Ribavirin treatment in 2005 and finished 48 weeks of treatment. In January 2007, I tested negative for the virus” (Willowhorse, 2007).
“Since my HCV diagnosis this past fall, several times my thoughts have gone back to that gauntlet of air gun inoculations in Navy boot camp in 1979. Lots of bloody arms and bloodstained white t-shirts in that crowd as we passed through the lines. It was just an assembly line with the corpsmen going through the motions. Who knows? Maybe not a conventional risk factor but I’m sure there was some blood to blood contact going on even with that process” (LN55, 2013).
“I was in the Army in ’73, did my basic training in Fort Ord, CA, and had the same injection. I remember going from one end of the building to the other end of building, sleeves rolled up and doc in hand as we went through. Blood was just pouring down most of our arms. And had to repeat this ordeal again after graduation at Fort Poke. I have HCV and never used [drug] needles in my entire life. Now I have liver cancer and they gave me one year left to live. I am very pissed that I got ripped off from my life because of this. Everyone needs to be tested… I have wonderful grandchildren that I will not get to see grow up because of this. Our government is responsible for this mass exposure and needs to take responsibility for what they have done” (Monkscountry, 2012).
Throughout the years our veterans have reached out over the Internet and supported each other. They have shared not only their memories but their angst, anger, and confusion. They provided compassion and empathy amidst negative health reports and encouragement and elation with health improvements. Their stories have been honest. Their emotions raw. Each had no reason to lie to the other. On the face of these Internet forums, it is clear that these brothers and sisters of the Armed Forces are bonded, and thus, why I wanted to represent a sampling of them here. For this is their story.
Veterans testimonies have been corroborated by the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB), an expert advisory board of civilian physicians and scientists that assists the Department of Defense with medically related issues. The AFEB witnessed military jet injectors contaminated with blood and the lack of sterilization practices by corpsmen. Their 1999 report stated,
“Of note is that the AFEB made a site visit to the MTF [medical treatment facility] at Parris Island and directly observed high volume recruit immunization using jet injectors. It was noted that jet injector nozzle’s were frequently contaminated with blood, yet sterilization practices were frequently inadequate or not followed” (Department of Defense, 1999).
The observations of the AFEB substantiate the numerous claims by veterans. Recruits were herded through a single-line, whereupon a lack of sterilizing the jet injector allowed for the exposure of blood from other recruits. This proves recruits were exposed to blood-to-blood contact and thus these recruits experienced a risk factor for the transmission of blood-borne pathogens, such as hepatitis C.
- (Brandej, 2001) Brandej. Hepatitis C: Military Veterans. [Internet Forum]. Medhelp.org. 9 August 2001. Accessed at: http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Hepatitis-C/Military-Veterans/show/82241.
- (Department of Defense, 1999) Department of Defense. C. Issues of administration, 1. Jet injector use. In: Poland GA, (ed.). Vaccines in the Military: a Department of Defense-wide Review of Vaccine Policy and Practice. A Report for the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, August 1999. Falls Church, VA: Infectious Diseases Control Subcommittee of the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, 1999;60. Online. Available at: http://www.ha.osd.mil/afeb/reports/vaccines.pdf.
- (FDA, 1999) Food and Drug Administration. General Hospital & Personal Use Devices panel: open session. Department of Health and Human Services Meeting. Rockville, MD. 2 August 1999.
- (Hawkbill, 2008) Hawkbill. Hepatitis C: Military Veterans. [Internet Forum]. Medhelp.org. 10 October 2008. Accessed at: http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Hepatitis-C/Military-Veterans/show/82241.
- (LN55, 2013) LN55. Hepatitis C Community: Any Vets in here have air jet injections? [Internet Forum]. Medhelp.org. 9 April 2013. Accessed at: http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Hepatitis-C/Any-Vets-in-here-have-air-jet-injections/show/1896370.
- (Monkscountry, 2012) Monkscountry. Hepatitis C Community: Air Jet Inoculator and HCV. [Internet Forum]. Medhelp.org. 19 August 2012. Accessed at: http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Hepatitis-C/Air-Jet-Innoculator-and-HCV/show/97020.
- (Pete53, 2010) Pete53. Hep C: Compensation and Pension Exams. [Internet Forum]. Hadit.com. 14 April 2010. Accessed at: http://www.hadit.com/forums/topic/35897-hep-c/.
- (Skydog007, 2008) Skydog007. Hepatitis C: Military Veterans. [Internet Forum]. Medhelp.org. 9 October 2008. Accessed at: http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Hepatitis-C/Military-Veterans/show/82241.
- (Vync, 2010) Vync. Hep C: Compensation and Pension Exams. [Internet Forum]. Hadit.com. 13 April 2010. Accessed at: http://www.hadit.com/forums/topic/35897-hep-c/.
- (Willowhorse, 2007) Willowhorse. Hepatitis C Community: Air Jet Inoculator and HCV. [Internet Forum]. Medhelp.org. 16 March 2007. Accessed at: http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Hepatitis-C/Air-Jet-Innoculator-and-HCV/show/97020.