A 20-year-old soldier is requesting an official inquiry into his claim that a top sergeant threatened to strap him down and forcibly vaccinate him if he refused anthrax shots.
Pfc. Mathew R. Baker, of Springfield, Ohio, went absent without leave after receiving his first anthrax vaccination.
In a letter to the Army Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Ronald R. Blanck, Baker said going AWOL was the only way to prevent his being forcibly vaccinated.
"At Fort Stewart, Ga., I indicated my concerns about being given the anthrax vaccine and was told by my first sergeant that if I refused to submit to an anthrax vaccine hypodermic shot, I would be strapped down to a gurney and would be forcibly injected against my will," he wrote.
"I felt threatened, intimidated and I believed my chain of command would overpower me physically and administer such a shot. I therefore gave in and was administered an anthrax vaccine shot. I am not the only soldier this has happened to."
Baker, a Bradley fighting vehicle mechanic with headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion 15th Infantry, wrote that he talked to a chaplain before going AWOL "to seek congressional and other help."
Baker will turn himself in after a 10:30 a.m. Washington, D.C., press conference, said Tod Ensign, director of Citizen Soldier, a service members' advocacy group.
"He's been gone about six weeks," Ensign said. "He's voluntarily returning to military control. He'll be accompanied by his parents and a lawyer."
Officials with the Army Medical Command directed questions about the vaccination policy to an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, who did not return calls Monday.
Military officials have previously stated that the vaccination program is mandatory, but have not publicly stated that troops would be forcibly vaccinated. Service members who refused the shots have been demoted, fined and in some cases thrown out of the service.
The anthrax program has been controversial since it was announced in December. Federal regulators have repeatedly cited the manufacturer of the vaccine for failing to properly test the drug.
In June, Army officials confirmed that all of the vaccinations given this year came from a batch of vaccine that had been improperly relabeled after it expired.
Originally Published, Aug. 8, 1998 , Belleville News Democrat, Belleville,
(c) 1998, Belleville News-Democrat, Belleville, Ill.
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