Anthrax vaccinations expected to resume in late January
ARLINGTON, Va. — Mandatory anthrax vaccinations for some troops are expected to resume in late January, said Defense Department spokesman Maj. Stewart Upton on Friday.
Meanwhile, an attorney representing six Defense Department employees who refuse to take the vaccine has vowed that he will try to stop the mandatory vaccination program.
In October, the Defense Department announced it was making anthrax vaccinations mandatory for U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula and in the U.S. Central Command area of operations.
At one time, shots were mandatory for all troops. But in 2004, a federal judge halted the inoculations after finding the Food and Drug Administration had made mistakes in determining the drug was safe.
The judge allowed the Defense Department to resume the shots on a voluntary basis, but only about half of U.S. troops opted to get vaccinated, prompting the department to make the vaccinations mandatory again for troops downrange and in South Korea.
On Dec. 6, the Defense Department issued guidelines for implementing the mandatory vaccinations to each branch of the service, Upton said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.
Under the guidelines, the services have 45 days to get back to the department on their implementation plans, Upton said.
“Once the implementation plans are approved, the service may commence mandatory vaccination for the applicable categories of personnel,” Upton said. “This is expected in late January.”
But Mark Zaid, a Washington, D.C., attorney who filed a class-action lawsuit against the DOD over the program, has vowed to try to block mandatory shots in court.
“We are well-prepared to challenge the Defense Department each time it exercises poor judgment involving AVIP (Anthrax Vaccine and Immunization Program), and will file a Temporary Restraining Order in January to attempt to prevent any unlawful inoculations,” Zaid said in a Friday e-mail to Stripes.
Zaid has claimed that the anthrax vaccine is potentially unsafe, but the Defense Department maintains the vaccine is safe and effective.
“Like all vaccines, anthrax vaccine can cause soreness, redness, itching, swelling and lumps at the injection site,” Defense health officials said in October. “Beyond the injection site, some will notice rashes (an average of 16 percent), headaches (14 percent to 25 percent), joint aches (12 percent to 15 percent), malaise (6 percent to 17 percent), muscle aches (3 percent to 34 percent), nausea (3 percent to 9 percent), chills (2 percent to 6 percent), fever (1 percent to 5 percent). These symptoms usually go away after a few days. The rates of these reactions are similar to those experienced by recipients of other common vaccines.”
But medically retired Air Force Capt. Kelli M. Donley has said she believes the vaccine shrunk her cerebellum, the part of her brain that controls muscle movement.
“I’ve had a litany of medical tests. It’s not diabetes. It’s not cancer. It’s not — Lyme disease didn’t cause it. I mean, I’ve been poked and prodded. I’ve had spinal taps. I’ve had genetic tests. Everything possible medically has been ruled out,” Donley said at an October symposium about the resumption of mandatory anthrax vaccinations.
“What’s that leave? Anthrax shots.”