Pentagon: Vaccines May Have Killed Soldier

A Fort Bragg paratrooper's death may have been caused by vaccinations he received for smallpox and influenza, the Pentagon said.

Pfc. Christopher "Justin" Abston, 26, of Smiths Grove, Ky., died unexpectedly in his barracks Dec. 4, 16 days after receiving the vaccines.

"The expert panel cautioned that the findings pointing to vaccinations were neither probable nor unlikely, but they do suggest the possibility that the vaccines may have caused Abston's death," the Army statement said.

The statement said the smallpox vaccine Abston received is known to cause an inflammation of the heart muscle or myocarditis, a condition found at his autopsy.

No vaccinia virus — the main ingredient of smallpox vaccine — was found in his heart muscle, but evidence of another virus, parvovirus B19, was detected. Natural infection with parvovirus B19 is another known cause of heart inflammation and death, the statement said.

The United States ended routine childhood vaccination against smallpox in 1971, and the World Health Organization reported the disease was eradicated in 1980. But about 15 months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. government ordered certain military personnel vaccinated and recommended shots for front-line health care workers.