Friday, November 19, 2004

Air Force Sergeant Sues Over Anthrax Reprimand

By Patrick Mairs

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) - An Air Force flight engineer charged in a lawsuit on Thursday that the U.S. military violated his civil rights when it punished him for complaining about the dangers of the anthrax vaccine.

Staff Sgt. Jason Adkins said he was punished last month when he told an Air Force doctor he believed the controversial vaccine was causing a host of medical problems, according to the federal suit filed in Delaware.

Adkins, who is stationed at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and is a flight engineer on C-5 aircraft, named Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other Air Force officials in the lawsuit.

Adkins has suffered from memory loss, severe headaches, weight loss, constant body aches and an irregular heartbeat since receiving eight mandatory anthrax inoculations between 1998 and 2004, according to the lawsuit.

The Pentagon (news - web sites) had no immediate comment on the content of the lawsuit but called the vaccine safe and effective, a spokesman said.

A federal judge last month barred the U.S. military from forcing troops to be vaccinated for anthrax without either getting their informed consent or obtaining a special order from President Bush (news - web sites).

About 1 million troops have already been given the shots in the 6-year-old program, and many who refused have faced punishment, including being thrown out of the military.

Adkins' lawsuit seeks a court order preventing future retaliation and an apology for the written reprimand the staff sergeant was given last month.

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