Refusing anthrax shot means disobeying order
Since the military instituted the anthrax vaccination program in 1998, several servicemembers have refused to take the vaccine.
Then — and now, with the resumption of the policy mandating the shots — a refusal officially becomes “a commander’s decision regarding failure to obey a lawful order,” according to the Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program.
In early 2001 on Okinawa, three servicemembers were convicted of refusing direct orders to begin the series of six anthrax vaccinations mandated by the Department of Defense. Here’s a brief rundown of their cases:
Petty Officer 3rd Class David Ponder, 21, a Navy Seabee, was busted two pay grades to E-2 and sentenced to 60 days confinement. Ponder refused the shots when his Gulfport, Miss., unit was preparing for a six-month deployment to Okinawa and South Korea.Marine Pfc. Vitalino Arroyo, 20, was busted to private, sentenced to 105 days confinement and fined $1,800 for refusing a direct order to take the anthrax vaccine. Arroyo, attached to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines on Camp Lejeune, N.C., was on a six-month deployment when he refused to take the shots with his company on Camp Schwab, Okinawa. Arroyo testified that he was afraid of possible adverse reactions to the vaccine.Marine Lance Cpl. Jason R. Stonewall, 27, also with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, was busted to private, sentenced to 90 days confinement and forfeited $1,500 pay.Arroyo and Stonewall were among eight Marines who refused the vaccinations at Camp Schwab. During testimony in Stonewall’s case, a Marine officer said Arroyo and Stonewall requested courts-martial. The other Marines took nonjudicial punishment for their refusals.
During their separate trials in January 2001, the two Marines and the Seabee said they had decided the anthrax vaccination was unsafe after researching it on the Internet.
They said they had learned that the sole provider of the vaccine had been cited by the federal Food and Drug Administration for multiple health violations.
Ironically, the servicemembers were not required to take the vaccine after their trials — the program had been suspended because of a shortage of the vaccine.
Those in the military who believe they were wrongly punished after a judge halted the mandate in 2004 can seek a correction of their military records, according to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.