Judge tosses suit against DOD anthrax vaccinations
Stars and Stripes March 1, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. — A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit challenging the Defense Department’s mandatory anthrax inoculation program.
The attorney representing a group of servicemembers who filed the suit said he will appeal the decision.
Since October 2006, anthrax vaccinations have been required for troops deploying to the U.S. Central Command theater of operations or South Korea.
Attorney Mark S. Zaid represents a number of active-duty and Reserve servicemembers who filed a lawsuit in the hopes of making the vaccine program voluntary.
But the judge found that the Food and Drug Administration acted appropriately when it found the drug to be safe.
“The court will not substitute its own judgment when the FDA made no clear error of judgment,” wrote Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, of the U.S. District for the District of Columbia.
On Friday, Zaid accused the Defense Department of pressuring the FDA to deem the vaccine safe.
He said the vaccine program began in the ’90s as a “public relations” move to show that the government could respond to a possible biological threat.
“It became a program of arrogance and ego,” Zaid said in a phone interview.
But Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Friday the anthrax program was a matter of force protection, which he called the department’s “No. 1 priority.”
Whitman also said the vaccine’s safety and efficacy have been well documented.
“This nation owes our servicemembers that are going into harm’s way the best possible protection that this country can afford them to be able to operate in any number of environments,” Whitman said.
The shots had been mandatory before then, but a federal judge stopped the inoculations in 2004 after ruling the Food and Drug Administration had made errors in the process of determining the vaccination was safe.
In April 2005, the judge allowed the Defense Department to give the vaccine on a voluntary basis, but when only half of U.S. troops agreed to get the shots, the department made it mandatory for certain personnel again.
By then, the FDA had once again ruled that the vaccination was safe and effective.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.