Troops refuse to be drug guinea pigs

2006-12-21

Richard Moore

       "In the early 1990s, a Japanese doomsday sect used airborne
        anthrax to attack Tokyo, but it wasn't effective. That was
        the only known terrorist-type use of the warfare agent until
        weaponized anthrax, suspected to have been used by domestic
        laboratory fearmongers, killed five Americans in 2001."

Did you ever wonder why there was no attempt to find these anthrax perps? Or was
the answer obvious?

rkm

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Original source URL:
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/121406B.shtml

    Anthrax Vaccine Suit
    By Thomas D. Williams
    t r u t h o u t | Report
    Thursday 14 December 2006

Two years after an earlier lawsuit temporarily halted mandatory anthrax 
vaccinations for all 2.4 million service members and some military contractors, 
another group of military service members and Pentagon civilian contractors are 
going to federal court to block the controversial vaccine's forced use once 
again.

Six complainants, remaining unidentified to protect them from retaliatory 
military discipline, filed suit against federal military and health officials 
Wednesday in US District Court for the District of Columbia. They are asking a 
judge to once again declare the controversial vaccine an unapproved drug and 
unlawful for use without informed consent.

Each of the plaintiffs faces either termination from employment or criminal 
prosecution if they refuse inoculation. The lawsuit is part of a class action on
behalf of all military service members and civilians facing inoculation, 
supposedly to protect them from aerosolized anthrax spores weaponized by 
terrorists or enemies of the United States.

More than two months ago, the defense department announced a reinstitution of 
the mandatory inoculation program, applying to those serving in the Korean and 
Middle East theaters. Prior to that development, for two years, the vaccine was 
administered voluntarily as a result of a federal court order stopping the 
vaccine's forced use.

The latest awakening of the mandatory vaccinations developed after the US Food 
and Drug Administration (FDA) a year ago issued a final rule saying the vaccine 
is safe, effective, and not misbranded for protection against both skin contact 
with anthrax and inhalation. The vaccine had been originally approved for skin 
contact only, not spore attacks through the air.

    Defendants in the suit are both FDA and Pentagon officials.

"We don't comment on ongoing litigation," said Cynthia Smith, a defense 
department spokeswoman, Wednesday. But, she added, "I can assure you that we 
want to ensure that all of our service members get the proper vaccine to ensure 
their safety." The FDA has a similar policy of not commenting on court action, 
but its spokespersons have constantly maintained the vaccine is relatively 
risk-free and defends adequately against disease.

"We believe in issuing its final order last December the FDA affirmed once and 
for all the safety and efficacy of our vaccine," said Kim Brennen Root, a 
spokeswoman for BioPort Corporation, the vaccine's manufacturer. "What is 
frustrating about that [court action] is that this suit can put in harm's way 
the service men and women who could be exposed to anthrax in a bioterrorist 
situation," she said.

But, John J. Michels Jr., co-counsel in the litigation along with DC Attorney 
Mark S. Zaid, countered: "FDA's certification of the vaccine.is based on 
slipshod statistical analysis, and an improper use of testing data. [That], as 
well as the defense department's alteration of the vaccine dosing schedule, 
renders [it] a drug unapproved for its applied use under current federal law. 
Under these circumstances, the vaccine may not be administered to service 
members without their informed consent. [Mandatory use] is patently illegal."

Internal government documents, many of which are described in the lawsuit, 
reveal a history of regulatory violations and scientific concerns regarding the 
defense department's anthrax immunization. A 1994 report by the Senate Veterans'
Affairs Committee concluded that the vaccine could not be expected to adequately
protect troops against airborne anthrax and should be considered experimental. 
In February 2000, the House of Representative's Committee on Government Reform 
recommended the termination of the mandatory anthrax vaccination program. In 
December 2003, and again in October 2004, a federal judge declared the 
vaccination program illegal until the FDA acted.

Connecticut, especially, has been a hotbed of opposition to the vaccine from the
very beginning in late 1997. It was then that former US secretary of defense 
William Cohen readied his nationwide order, forcing soldiers, sailors, airmen, 
all other military branches and civilian workers to take the six-shot regimen 
within 18 months and annual boosters.

US congressman Chris Shays (R-Conn.), State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal 
and two well known Connecticut US Air Force officers, Thomas Rempfer and Russ 
Dingle, were leading opponents of the drug. For seven years, in vain, they 
pressured Congress, two presidents and high-ranking Pentagon officials to halt 
the program.

The US Government Accountability Office reported that the vaccine's systemic 
adverse reaction rate was 100 times higher than the 0.2 percent rate reported on
the product's label. Adverse vaccine reactions were said by users to include 
immune disorders, muscle and joint pains, headaches, rashes, fatigue, nausea, 
diarrhea, chills and fever. At least half a dozen deaths and a number of birth 
defects have been attributed to use of the vaccine, but they have not been 
definitively proven as linked.

Nearly 500 active-duty service members have refused the vaccine, and more than 
100 have been court-martialed. Additionally, approximately 500-1000 pilots and 
flight crew members have quit, resigned or transferred from the Air National 
Guard or Reserves rather than take the vaccine. The vaccine is voluntary in the 
Australian, British and Canadian militaries, as well as for US Department of 
State employees, even though they serve in the same geographical region as that 
of US military service members.

The vaccine was originally produced by an entity of the State of Michigan's 
health and human services department, MBPI, which has a decidedly mixed record 
of performance, including failed government inspections. It was later purchased 
by BioPort of Lansing, Michigan. The purchase fueled controversy because two of 
the original officers in BioPort were former Michigan state health officials, 
and a third, William Crowe, was former head of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of 
Staff, and later President Bill Clinton's ambassador to Great Britain.

In the early 1990s, a Japanese doomsday sect used airborne anthrax to attack 
Tokyo, but it wasn't effective. That was the only known terrorist-type use of 
the warfare agent until weaponized anthrax, suspected to have been used by 
domestic laboratory fearmongers, killed five Americans in 2001. Tuesday, the 
Washington Post reported that 33 members of Congress have written Attorney 
General Alberto Gonzales demanding that the FBI update lawmakers on the 
investigation into those anthrax attacks that froze persons nationwide with 
fear.
-- 

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