Veterans group files lawsuit
Anthrax vaccine's use is questioned

June 30, 1998
By Rod Hafemeister
Belleville News-Democrat

A veterans group Monday filed a lawsuit demanding the government prove its anthrax vaccination program is safe and effective while the latest group of sailors heading for the Persian Gulf reportedly are refusing to take the shots.

Veterans for Integrity in Government filed suit in federal court in Washington, D.C., against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Army, Navy and Air Force.

The organization is asking for copies of all studies regarding the safety, effectiveness and necessity of the anthrax vaccination program. "We have evidence that the military has relabeled and redated expired vaccine lots and administered these lots to active duty servicemen," said Mark Zaid, attorney for the veterans group.

Last month, the Belleville News-Democrat reported that sailors in the gulf received a batch of vaccine that FDA inspectors determined had been improperly given a new expiration date and had not been properly tested for safety.

Last week, a spokesman for the Army Medical Command confirmed that all of  the shots given in the gulf this year came from the same batch of vaccine.

Spokesman Cynthia Vaughn also corrected a letter from Lt. Gen. Ronald Blanck, the Army surgeon general, published in the News-Democrat on June 4.  Blanck claimed that the FDA had "inspected and approved every lot of anthrax vaccine," including the one used in the gulf.

"The manufacturer tests each lot for sterility, safety and potency," Vaughn said. "After the lots have passed this testing, the data is submitted to the FDA, which approves the lot for use."

An inspection of the plant done in February showed that the batch of vaccine was improperly relabeled and was not tested for sterility or safety, FDA records show.

In April, about two dozen sailors on two aircraft carriers in the gulf were punished for refusing to take the shots. Now another ship has apparently been hit with vaccination refusals.

Bob Aguilar, a Las Vegas man whose son is serving on the USS Abraham Lincoln, said his son and about 150 other sailors on the ship refused to take the shots after the ship set sail for the Persian Gulf.

Navy officials did not return calls seeking comment Monday. The Lincoln is scheduled to replace the USS Stennis on duty in the gulf next month.

Patrick Eddington, a former CIA analyst who now is executive director of Veterans for Integrity in government, said his organization has received numerous requests for help from military personnel who have refused to take the vaccine.

"We now have confirmed refusals by military personnel in the United States, the Persian Gulf and aboard a number of U.S. Navy vessels," he said. "We know of a number of others in Korea, Japan, Italy and Germany who intend to refuse. Our organization is now answering multiple inquiries per week from active duty personnel regarding the safety and efficacy of this vaccine."

In December, the Pentagon announced plans to vaccinate all 2.4 million active duty, Guard and Reserve troops against anthrax over five or six years. Vaccinations began for troops in the Persian Gulf in March.

But many veterans of the 1991 Gulf War question whether the anthrax vaccinations they received were partly responsible for the mysterious illnesses some of them have.

Originally Published, June 30, 1998 , Belleville News Democrat, Belleville, Illinois
(c) 1998, Belleville News-Democrat, Belleville, Ill.

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