Saturday, April 23, 2005

Judge Demands Update On Anthrax Vaccinations

April 22, 2005
By THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, Courant Staff Writer

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan asked Pentagon officials in Washington, D.C., Thursday why they should not be held in contempt for violating court orders to keep him apprised of anthrax vaccinations in the military.

On April 1, Sullivan ordered the U.S. Department of Defense to file weekly reports regarding inoculations of service members in violation of his Oct. 27 injunction halting mandatory use of the vaccine. The judge set a Monday noon deadline for the department's answer. The department had told Sullivan the violations were inadvertent.

In the injunction, Sullivan said the law requires that service members be told about the unlicensed drug's possible side effects and that they must consent to be vaccinated. Without consent, the military would need a presidential waiver to force use of the drug.

Weeks after his order, Sullivan asked the Pentagon for reports on any illegal vaccinations. Pentagon officials first acknowledged that approximately 700 service members were illegally inoculated. Later, officials revealed some inoculations had been given as recently as March 7, when nine U.S. Marine reservists were vaccinated in Cincinnati. The Pentagon reportedly sent out letters weeks ago to advise those vaccinated that the court had prohibited the practice.

In April, Sullivan reconfirmed his order after the Pentagon filed legal motions asking for a change in it. He said the Department of Defense must notify all military personnel facing inoculation with the anthrax vaccine that they will not be punished if they refuse to take it. But he agreed to leave untouched an emergency authorization from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allowing voluntary inoculations.

A total of 1.25 million of the 2.4 million service members have been vaccinated since the program began in 1998. It protects against airborne anthrax spores, requires six shots and annual boosters.

The adverse reaction rate of the vaccine is 100 times higher than the figure initially stated by the vaccine's manufacturer. Adverse reactions include immune disorders, muscle and joint pain, headaches, rashes, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, chills and fever.

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