There is a huge disconnect between policy makers and the VA/VHA–and it’s been working really well to keep the public ignorant of the many service-connected factors that relate to the veteran HCV epidemic.
If any institution can assign people to conduct exemplary research, it would be Harvard. Harvard Law collaborated with another project team to produce a report: “Massachusetts State HCV Report” (plus a long dull subtitle) that did not completely disappoint me by ignoring the remarkable oddity of the HCV-epidemic in the veteran population.
In the Background section (page 11) about people at risk, they write: ”
…Still others may have no idea that they were put at risk. For example, veterans, particularly those who served during the Vietnam War era, are considered to be at much higher risk for HCV, and although this risk is thought to be primarily due to injection drug use histories, (30) it is also possible that some of these infections may be associated with past group vaccination practices during military service. (31).
Here’s the citation and remarks:
The Veterans Administration (VA) has taken the position that air-gun vaccinations that were used in this period are a “biologically plausible” transmission mechanism for hepatitis C, although the VA maintains that there is no scientific evidence yet in support of this proposition. Veterans Benefits Administration, Relationship Between Immunization with Jet Injectors and Hepatitis C Infection As It Relates to Service Connection, Fast Letter 04-13, at 2 (June 29, 2004), available at http://www.hepatitis.va.gov/pdf/jetinjectors.pdf.
At least one claim for service connection based on air-gun vaccination and subsequent infection from hepatitis C has been upheld by the Board of Veterans Appeals, eg, Redacted Title, Bd. Vet. App. 0928872, 2009 WL 3321703 (2009).
Other populations with high prevalence rates include veterans, with prevalence estimated between 5.4-41.7%. (46) The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that among those receiving care at VA healthcare facilities, prevalence is as high as 1 in 20. (47). Prevalence among veterans is particularly high among those who served during the Vietnam War era ((48) and among homeless veterans. (49).
Footnotes 46, 47, 48 and 49 can be read online at the end of the report.
Most of these citations are to documents that are not current but they do open a little crack. Based on the subtle language used in footnote 31, I don’t think the Harvard authors place much, if any credence, in the VA’s position on mass vaccinations and this blood-borne pathogen. Yet they are still timid beyond belief. The Fast Letter is ten years old and it’s garbage.