Vaccinations may have caused the death of an Army medic who succumbed a month after receiving a combination of five shots, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
The conclusion was reached by two panels that studied the death of 22-year-old Rachael A. Lacy of suburban Chicago and the illnesses of three others, Defense Department officials said.
Lacy’s father, Moses Lacy, said he hopes the Pentagon’s new conclusions will help prevent other vaccine-related deaths in the military, even if the news won’t ease his pain or bring his daughter back.
Lacy said he suspected all along that vaccines caused his daughter’s death. While he initially accused the Pentagon of a cover-up, he said the new conclusions show the military is taking the issue seriously.
As is common practice inside and outside of the military, Lacy received several vaccinations in one day - for anthrax, smallpox, typhoid, hepatitis B and measles-mumps-rubella. The reservist got the shots March 2 at Ft. McCoy, Wis., and died a month later.
Two panels were convened at the Pentagon’s request under the Health and Human Services Department. One reported last week that it tended to think, but couldn’t conclusively prove, the vaccinations caused Lacy’s death.
Members on the second panel differed, with three members saying it was “possible” the vaccinations were the cause and two saying it was “probable.”
The panels found the illnesses of the other three people were not associated with the vaccinations, defense officials said.
Officials said Lacy’s death was extremely rare and would not alter the Pentagon’s vaccination program.
More than 900,000 service members have received the anthrax shot and more than 500,000 the smallpox shot - among the millions of doses of vaccines administered annually to protect troops against disease and bioterror threats.
Lacy, of Lynwood, Ill., was a nursing student before being called to active duty with the 452nd Combat Support Hospital of Milwaukee.
One of the hospitals that treated Lacy diagnosed her with lupus, an autoimmune disorder.
Members of the two panels that studied the cases were all civilian physicians and academics who advise the government.