Letters

'Vaccination war' concerns not backed by research Regarding "A vaccination war erupts in the military" (Jan. 28): The recent furor over the feared link between anthrax vaccinations and "Gulf War syndrome" missed the science behind the vaccines. The charge by activists that the vaccine is "experimental" has been advanced by the media and become part of the lore surrounding health problems facing Gulf War veterans.

The real story is more assuring. In 1971, the Food and Drug Administration licensed anthrax vaccine to protect civilian workers, and since has received no data warranting concern about its safety beyond minor short-term effects. In 1997, the Presidential Advisory Committee examined the hypothesis that Gulf War illnesses could result from contamination of the anthrax vaccine by Mycoplasma incognitus. Because the vaccine is preserved and processed with products hostile to Mycoplasma, like formaldehyde and benzethonium chloride, this fear was dispelled.

An additional charge was that the "drug cocktails" given to soldiers -numerous vaccinations in a short period of time - could cause adverse effects as well. The advisory committee's final report rightly discounted this: "Several studies of the effects of giving multiple vaccinations at one time have found no adverse effects associated with the practice."

We owe those who served the most reliable scientific information available, not alarming hypotheses that have already been addressed.

Howard Fienberg Washington

Perspective on noncitizen soldiers Your story, "Noncitizen soldiers in US ranks" (Jan. 6), was deficient in some important ways.

First, the military and naval forces have been a haven for noncitizens for more than a century. If you examine the rosters of the troops that fought Indians on the Great Plains between the Civil War and the 1890s, you will discover a much higher percentage of foreigners that the present 4.2 percent. During the Civil War, ethnic regiments, some of them using German and other European languages, were a major factor in many Union victories.

Second, your correspondent noted concern about a former foreign recruit - Ali A. Mohammed - who has been indicted as an accomplice of Osama bin Laden.

While reporting the concern of some, the writer forgets who was convicted in the Oklahoma City outrage - a native-born former serviceman.

Even worse was the last paragraph. It states, "The rise of new immigrant soldiers raises other questions as well. Would they be willing, for instance, to go to war against their former homelands? Most experts don't believe that would be a problem, citing the case of Japanese-Americans who fought valiantly for the US in World War II."

The Japanese-Americans who fought in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and served as Military Intelligence Specialists in the Pacific were native-born American citizens.

Roger Daniels Cincinnati, Ohio

In defense of nature I was interested to read "Activists step up war to 'liberate' nature" (Jan. 20). Those of us who feel the great imbalance between exploitative mankind and largely defenseless "nature" would like to have a stronger non-violent voice, but it is difficult.

The Monitor is already a very important moral voice in the publishing community as a whole. As a longtime Monitor reader, I would like to see the paper take a stronger editorial stance against the exploitation of animals, as well as forests, water, and air.

Deb Simons Newport, Ky.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. All items are subject to editing, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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