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Let’s discuss Dugway’s potential role in vaccine program

SHARE Let’s discuss Dugway’s potential role in vaccine program

One would expect Dugway Commander Col. John Como and chief scientist John Middlebrook to vigorously defend and support their installation personnel, programs and proposals. Perhaps they should also be expected to do their homework and be more mindful of history before lashing out at Dugway's critics.

I refer to their letter to the editor on Dec. 15, in which they label "despicable," "outrageous" and "contemptible" a statement I made to the Deseret News regarding a proposal to seriously expand Dugway's mission. The quote is not mine originally."Admittedly this (program) would have a little of the Buchenwald touch"' was a statement written by Dr. Joseph Hamilton, a Manhattan Project physician involved with plutonium injections, for a Dec. 8, 1950, meeting of an Atomic Energy Commission subcommittee on human experimentation. This was written in reference to radiation experiments on sick patients, retarded schoolchildren, inmates, volunteers and military personnel to be conducted by and for the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy. These and other experiments were wide ranging, long lasting and devastating to participants. Dugway Proving Ground participated in this human experimentation program. The characterizations of my statement made by Como and Middlebrook should more appropriately be applied to the criminal acts perpetrated by our government upon our citizens and our soldiers.

No one has suggested that Como and Middlebrook are responsible for Dugway's past. However, it is imperative they remember it, lest we are condemned to repeat it.

More to the issue at hand, real concerns about Dugway's possible participation in the Joint Vaccine Acquisition Program must not be dismissed due to fear mongering, political pork barreling and patriotic pap. What scant and general information has been released so far to the public about this program leads us to believe that this marks a major change in Dugway's role in biological and chemical defense. For the past decade, as Downwinders led the fight against further Dugway expansions in its role, the Army continually assured Utahns that Dugway does not develop, produce or stockpile biological agents. DPG has a test and evaluation mission. The JVAP is created to develop and produce vaccines. This appears to be an entirely new role for DPG.

Dozens of questions come to mind and need to be addressed before this proposal is approved. Does DPG have the capability to develop and produce vaccines? Is it the most appropriate facility to do so? Should the nation even develop such vaccines? For what biological or chemical agents? What protocols and procedures will be followed? Who will provide oversight and peer review? How much of the information and research will be classified? What quantities of vaccines will be produced and stockpiled? A vaccine against a pathogen cannot be created without maintaining active cultures of that pathogen. How much and how many of these deadly pathogens like ebola virus will be maintained? Will Dugway have to upgrade its new germ lab to level BL-4 in order to safely contain these germs? How will the effectiveness and safety of vaccines be tested? Will the JVAP involve human experimentation?

Dugway is now preparing a new, full facility environmental impact statement. Downwinders will insist that complete analysis of the JVAP at DPG must be accomplished and included in the EIS before any record of decision is made giving Dugway a role in this program.

Steve Erickson is a spokesman for Downwinders.