By LILY LEUNG / Staff writer
February 14, 2016
The VA and the device’s manufacturer dispute that. But the Vietnam Veterans of America, a Maryland-based nonprofit, in recent months adopted the jet gun issue as one of its causes, due to mounting evidence and member concerns.
A small, yet increasing number of military veterans, mainly those who served during the Vietnam War, are receiving VA disability benefits in connection to Hepatitis C. Here, an Army veteran gets his annual liver ultrasound at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. DETROIT FREE PRESS VIA ZUMAPRESS.COMNear the end of the Vietnam War, Lynn Seiser lined up with other fresh-faced Army recruits to await a dreaded, often bloody ritual.
Along with millions of other members of the military, Seiser, then 21, received his service vaccines not by way of disposable syringes but with needleless “jet guns” that blasted drugs into each arm using puffs of high pressure. The U.S. military at the time touted the medical device for its ability to immunize veterans en masse, cheaply and safely.
However, the guns often weren’t sterilized between uses and “if you flinched, it ripped you open,” said Seiser, a former longtime Orange County resident and clinical psychology professor. “If anyone in the line had something, everyone would be exposed.”
Decades later, a growing chorus of Vietnam War veterans like Seiser and medical experts – including some doctors within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – argue that the inoculators, since removed from use, were a likely vehicle for the hepatitis C virus.
During the Vietnam conflict alone, at least 4.7 million service members were administered vaccinations in this manner, based on one government report that said 235,000 recruits were injected by jet gun each year over a span of three decades. An FDA hearing cites much higher figures: It said the Department of Defense jet gun vaccinated 20 million to 40 million military personnel from 1965 to 1980.
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