Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Vaccine’s effects not
allowed as evidence

Star-Bulletin wire services


MAYPORT NAVAL STATION, Fla. -- A military judge ruled yesterday that a sailor who refused to take an anthrax vaccine can't submit evidence about the vaccine's safety during his court-martial.

Capt. Raymond Kreichelt also ruled during the preliminary hearing that the military order requiring Airman Zachary Johnson to take the vaccine was legal.

Johnson, 22, is charged with willfully disobeying a direct order and failing to obey a lawful regulation. If convicted, he faces up to six months in prison, loss of pay, reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge.

Kreichelt told defense attorneys they could not offer evidence linking anthrax vaccine to Gulf War syndrome or call an expert to testify on its safety. The prosecutor, Lt. Christopher Ludmer, had argued that medical evidence was irrelevant to the charges.

The anthrax vaccine is being given to all 2.4 million members of the armed services to protect against biological warfare. The Pentagon said that of the 900,000 personnel vaccinated so far, more than 79 reported adverse effects, such as rashes, headaches and fever, but all recovered.

About 200 military personnel have refused to take the six-shot immunization, but Johnson is the first sailor to face a court-martial.

Some critics contend that possibly twice as many military personnel have left the services to avoid the anthrax vaccine than the Pentagon has reported:

Bullet In March, 23 sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt were demoted, fined and given extra duty for refusing the vaccine, Navy officials said.

Bullet Thirty-one pilots and 17 other crew members at Travis Air Force Base in California have submitted their resignations in recent weeks rather than be vaccinated, according to a House subcommittee.

Bullet Sixty percent of the 56 pilots in the 326th Reserve Airlift Squadron at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware will quit rather than gamble with their health, a congressional subcommittee was told.

Bullet At least eight Marines in California have been court-martialed, and more than two dozen other Marines in Okinawa and another 30 at Camp Pendleton have refused to take the vaccine.

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