Army forces anthrax vaccinations
Aug. 17, 1998
By Rod Hafemeister
Belleville News-Democrat

As the Pentagon expands its anthrax vaccination program this week, Army  officials are saying they have the right to forcibly restrain and vaccinate soldiers who refuse the shots.

The Army's statements are in response to questions about the case of Pfc. Mathew R. Baker, a 20-year-old soldier who went absent without leave June  9.

Baker, who turned himself in Aug. 5, says he didn't want the vaccination  because of concerns about its safety and effectiveness.  But he said First Sgt. Roger Paterson "told me to my face that if I refused the anthrax vaccine, he would strap me down or have me strapped down to a
gurney, and inject me with the anthrax vaccine."

Baker took the first of a series of six shots, then went AWOL.

Army spokesmen are saying Paterson did nothing wrong.

"Army regulations allow soldiers to be given vaccinations as required for  mission readiness," said Army spokesman Elaine Kanellis. "It's certainly  possible that a soldier can be ordered to take a shot. If they refuse the order, they can face disciplinary action."

Kanellis, a civilian spokesman, repeatedly refused to say whether Army  policy allowed or prohibited forcible vaccinations.  "The military folks I talked to never heard of such a case," she said.

But in the Aug. 17 edition of the Army Times, a weekly newspaper for  soldiers, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Guy Shields was quoted as saying about  Baker: "Yes, we could have used restrained force to administer the shot."

The same article quotes a spokesman at Fort Stewart, Ga., where Baker was  stationed, as saying Paterson did threaten Baker with force if he refused  the shot.  "The Army is currently developing a specific policy for dealing with the  anthrax vaccine program," Kanellis said.

She could not explain why the service did not have a policy in place when  the vaccinations began in March.

On Friday, Pentagon officials announced they are expanding the vaccinations to the all service members, beginning this week. First to get the vaccinations will be troops in Korea and Southeast Asia.

The Army policy stands in contrast to the Navy and the Air Force. No  reports of forcible vaccinations or threats to do so have surfaced in  either service.

Those services have punished sailors and airmen for refusing the  vaccinations, which began earlier this year for 48,000 troops in the Persian Gulf or enroute there.

But the Navy is preparing to discharge sailors who refused the shots  earlier this year, according to e-mails from them.

Six of the seven sailors who refused the shots on the USS Independence were removed from the ship last month when it reached Japan.

One of the sailors said they are cutting grass and painting, according to  his e-mail message, while the Navy decides what kind of discharges they  will get.

The seventh, Nhut M. Nguyen, a 23-year-old Vietnamese immigrant from San Rafael, Calif., is on restriction in Bremerton, Wash., and pending an  other-than-honorable discharge.

Baker turned himself in to Army officials at Fort Knox, Ky., on Aug. 5 and  was sent home to his parents' house in Springfield, Ohio, two days later.  His mother, Kathe Baker, said Sunday that the Army has not decided what kind of discharge he will be offered.  "They put him on leave until he gets released," said his mother, Kathe Baker, on Sunday. "We're just trying now to get him a better discharge."

Originally Published, Aug. 17, 1998 , Belleville News Democrat, Belleville, Illinois
(c) 1998, Belleville News-Democrat, Belleville, Ill.

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