ANTHRAX VACCINE: House Panel Urges Military to Halt Program
The House Government Reform Committee's national security subcommittee is expected to release a report today recommending that the military suspend the anthrax inoculation program as the vaccine's effectiveness is based on very limited scientific evidence, the AP/Arizona Daily Star reports. The report indicates that the vaccine should be considered experimental, since the long term safety and efficacy are uncertain and the military lacks the proper oversight to monitor reactions. Although Department of Defense officials contend that the vaccine is safe and effective, the 80-page report states that the program "is an unmanageably broad military undertaking built on a dangerously narrow scientific and medical foundation" (2/17). The report also recommends that the Pentagon: speed up research on a second-generation vaccine; develop a shorter, safer inoculation regimen; and enroll all vaccine recipients in a long term clinical study to evaluate side effects. Currently the vaccine is mandatory for all 2.4 million military service members. Since the inoculation program began in 1998, more than 300 personnel have been disciplined for refusing the shots (Williams, Hartford Courant, 2/17).
No Court Martial
Maj. Sonnie Bates, a 14-year, decorated Air Force pilot, will not be court martialed for refusing the anthrax vaccination, the AP/Arizona Daily Star reports. Instead, he has agreed to an administrative hearing by his commander at Dover Air Force (2/17). In a written statement released yesterday, Bates said, "By selecting a non-judicial forum, I will have an opportunity to present my case as I have always wanted to: within the military chain of command, to the commander of 21st Air Force. ... In selecting this venue there is no presumption of guilt and I have every confidence that when presented with the weight of the evidence, the Air Force leadership will come to the same conclusions about the vaccine that I have." The date for the hearing has not been set. Bates is the highest-ranking military officer to refuse the vaccine (Williams, Hartford Courant, 2/17).