Hartford Courant , CT
September 30, 2004
Bill Would Ease Rules On Military Vaccines
By THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, Courant Staff Writer
U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays is proposing a bill that would exempt
service members from the punishments they received for refusing to take
the controversial anthrax vaccine whose legality is under challenge in
"The rationale for administering these vaccines should be based on what
we know about the threat," Shays, R-4th District, said Wednesday. "Until
we have modern, safer, and proven effective countermeasures [vaccines],
administering mandatory vaccinations for an unproven threat is
State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal agrees.
"I am strongly supportive of the bill's objectives and general
provisions," said Blumenthal who has been critical of the vaccine's use.
"The federal government should be held to a much higher standard when it
administers these vaccines so that there is stronger assurance that they
are safe and effective."
James Turner, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, did not comment
on the bill Wednesday, but in the past, he and others in the department
have insisted the anthrax vaccine is necessary, safe, effective and
federally licensed. The department needs to make the vaccine mandatory
to protect all troops in the field from attack, say defense officials.
Since administration of the vaccinations began six years ago, nearly 500
active-duty service members have refused the vaccine and more than 100
of them have been court-martialed, according to data filed in federal
court earlier this year. About 500 to 1,000 pilots and flight crew
members have retired or transferred from the Air National Guard or
reserves rather than take the vaccine, government statistics show. On
average, a pilot with nine years of experience cost the government about
$6 million to train,
according to a federal estimate.
The far-reaching bill would additionally create a national research
center to focus on the health of service members deployed overseas.
Shays, the Stamford Republican, has for almost a decade been involved in
Congressional investigations of the adverse effects of the anthrax
vaccine and the so-called Gulf War illnesses reported by thousands of
Similar illnesses have been reported by thousands more U.S. service
members who fought in Afghanistan and the present war in Iraq. Allied
troops from Britain, Canada, Australia, and other nations fighting in
those wars have also become ill, reportedly as a result of wartime
exposures, as have
Iraqi and Afghan civilians and soldiers.
The bill's other proposed requirements include:
Voluntary instead of mandatory administration of the anthrax or smallpox
vaccines to service members who agree after they have been informed of
the risks of taking those vaccines.
A defense department annual assessment for Congress of the actual
biological threat of the future terrorist or enemy use of anthrax spores
or the smallpox virus.
An ongoing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' assessment of the
adverse health effects of the two vaccines reported by members, and
members, of the armed forces.
A separate VA ongoing assessment of the relationship, if any, between
those adverse health effects and the vaccines.
In May, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in Washington, D.C.,
commenting on a lawsuit brought by service members against the mandatory
use of the anthrax vaccine, said he has significant doubt about the
vaccine's safety and effectiveness. His final ruling is expected later
Since President George W. Bush mandated the smallpox vaccination for
service members, in late January, the defense department claims the
reaction rate has been minimal. Some service members are reluctant to
because of the risk of adverse effects.