Lawsuit claims anthrax vaccine made soldier ill, but Army still made her take it three times
By ALEXIS KRELL | The News Tribune | Published: September 12, 2019
TACOMA, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — A 35-year-old Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier has sued the United States, alleging she was forced to get anthrax vaccines that made her seriously ill.
Emel Bosh said she had to get the vaccine three times, even after she objected when they started making her more and more sick.
Court records allege she had 20 to 25 “life-threatening seizures” after the final vaccine and that the vaccines weren’t necessary because the chemical specialist wasn’t scheduled to deploy to a high-risk area.
Madigan Army Medical Center sent The News Tribune’s request for comment about Bosh’s lawsuit to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson referred the newspaper to its court filings in the case.
The government has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing in part in its motion that due to Feres v. United States “and a long line of binding precedent, claims by active duty personnel arising out of their service, and derivative claims by their estates or family members, are barred.”
“... even accepting the version of the facts set forth in Plaintiffs’ complaint, Plaintiffs have failed to state a constitutional claim,” one of the government’s filings says.
The so-called Feres Doctrine, which prevents military members from suing the United States in connection to their service, made local news earlier this year.
The family of a Navy nurse who died after giving birth in Bremerton argued that they should be able to sue for medical malpractice. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case in May, The Seattle Times reported.
A House bill introduced in April seeks to make an exception for medical malpractice cases.
Bosh argues the Feres Doctrine doesn’t apply to her case because the vaccine was “very likely applied in a discriminatory manner based on Emel’s experience,” one of her court filings says.
It goes on to say: “... many of the actions taken by her superiors, both in Missouri and in Washington state, amount to deliberate, intentional harassment, discrimination, and possibly criminal activity, if it can be shown that the forced administration of the anthrax vaccine was due to her religious background or in working as a female chemical specialist.”
Bosh was stationed in Missouri after basic training and ultimately served at JBLM as a chemical specialist.
“... her injuries stem from the illegal activity, forcing only her, a highly educated female immigrant from a predominately Muslim country, to undergo an unnecessary ‘medical’ treatment despite her explicit refusals, and not from activities incident to service,” the court filing says.
She came to the United States from Turkey in 2012 to complete a master’s degree and later decided that she wanted to serve in the military.
“Being educated and having multiple language skills, I thought it would be a good career path for me,” she told The News Tribune.
Her lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, ended up in U.S. District Court in Tacoma in July.
It gives this account of what happened:
Bosh had flu-like symptoms after she first got the vaccine in December 2017 at Madigan Army Medical Center.
She asked to be excused from the second vaccine in April 2018 but wasn’t. After that vaccine, she had vomiting, went to the emergency room with migraine headaches and was ill for eight or nine days.
“Before her third vaccination, Emel explained to her provider that she had significant adverse reactions to the previous two anthrax vaccines and again requested a waiver, but she was told that she is a soldier and that she is required to receive the vaccine and that her past would not qualify her for an exemption,” the lawsuit says. “She not only pleaded with the doctor, but also to the patient advocate and her chain of command — which did not support the immunization due to her previous reaction(s).”
Bosh transferred units and was able to delay the third vaccine for a week. She was forced to get it Aug. 2, 2018.
“Mrs. Bosh described her past symptoms to the new unit physician and ‘pleaded’ to not have the 3rd dose,” the lawsuit says. “She is quoted as saying, ‘I have a daughter, family ... I’m scared of the symptoms getting worse’ compared to her previous flu-like side effects. She felt she was forced to take the vaccination.”
Again, she started vomiting. She also had bouts of shivering, chest pain and ultimately seizures.
The lawsuit said she had one “episode consisting of eyes rolling upward then ‘flickering,’ body shivering, hands crossed over chest slightly to the left, and curled in a fetal position.”
She was taken to the emergency room and discharged the next day.
The day after that she had another bout of “seizure-like shaking” and went back to the hospital.
She started having five or six of the episodes daily.
“Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. requested Mrs. Bosh’s presence there, after the military admitted that it should not have administered the anthrax vaccination contrary to her objections, but she was not permitted to go as she was told by her providers and chain of command that this did not need to elevate outside of JBLM and that the incident ‘should stay in the family,’” the lawsuit alleges.
The complaint says informed consent is required for the anthrax vaccine and that Bosh never gave it.
“In fact, she refused informed consent and that refusal is in her records,” the lawsuit says.
Her husband and child also have suffered, the lawsuit says. Her 12-year-old daughter twice helped paramedics carry Bosh out of their home.
Other service members have had trouble after getting anthrax vaccines in the past, according to Bosh’s complaint.
“According to a survey by Congress’s General Accounting Office (GAO), 85 percent of troops who received an anthrax shot had an adverse reaction, a rate far higher than the 30 percent claimed by the manufacturer in 2000 when the survey was conducted,” the lawsuit says. “Sixteen percent of the survey respondents had either left the military or changed their status, at least in part because of the vaccination program.”