ANTHRAX VACCINE: Bates Fined $3,200 and Reprimanded
Air Force Maj. Sonnie Bates, who refused to take the anthrax vaccine -- and became the highest-ranking officer to face punishment for doing so -- yesterday was fined $3,200 and given "a career-damaging official reprimand" that read, "Your disobedience of the lawful order of a direct superior commander undermines the very essence of military good order and discipline. Your failure to live up to these standards cannot be condoned." Bates initially asked for a court-martial, where he would have faced a maximum five-year prison term and dishonorable discharge, but backed down after he argued that the Air Force would have used the trial "as a public relations forum for its vaccination campaign." Instead Bates chose a less severe option, under which he could have been sentenced to 30 days in jail and restricted to base for 60 days, on top of fines and reprimand. Maj. Frank Smolinsky, spokesperson for Bates' 436th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base, Del., said that Bates will not be permitted to fly on overseas missions unless he accepts the vaccination. Smolinsky said, "All pilots on deployment must get the shots." Should he be restored to flying duty, Bates "risks receiving another order to take the shots and a new charge of insubordination if he refuses." His lawyer, Capt. Bill Burke, said, "I hope they don't do that." Burke added that Bates intends to appeal the fines. In the meantime, the House Government Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing on the vaccine for Thursday (Chicago Tribune, 3/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.