Mark S. Zaid, Esq.
(202) 785-3801


Legislation Would Change The Mandatory Nature Of The Pentagon's Vaccination Program


Congressmen Walter Jones (R-NC) and Ben Gilman (R-NY) will jointly host a press conference at 1:00 P.M. in Room 2247 of the Rayburn House Office Building to advocate passage of and hearings on H.R. 2543 and H.R. 2548, respectively, both of which change the mandatory nature of the Defense Department's Anthrax Vaccination Immunization Program (AVIP). Also in attendance will be Congressmen Dan Burton (R-IN), Ralph Regula (R-OH) and Bob Filner (D-CA). The sponsors of the legislation are calling upon Chairman Congressman Steve Buyer (R-IN) to permit a Fall'99 hearing on the two bills before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel.

H.R. 2543, if adopted, would modify the mandatory nature of the AVIP to that of voluntary, as is being implemented by the U.S. Department of State and the United Kingdom. It is currently co-sponsored by Congressmen Regula, Filner, Burton, Jim Saxton (R-NJ), Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Robin Hayes (R-NC), Charles Taylor (R-NC) and Joe Barton (R-TX). The passage of H.R. 2548 would impose a moratorium on the AVIP until specific studies are completed. It would also require expedited review for upgrade requests filed by service members who have been administratively or judicially punished for refusing inoculations with the vaccine. Its co-sponsors include Congressmen Filner, John Mica (R-FL), Doug Ose (R-CA), Sue Kelly (R-NY), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jack Metcalf (R-WA), Robert Borski, Jr. (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Nick Rahall, II (D-WV).

"These pending legislative bills reveal the growing challenge to the Pentagon's anthrax vaccination program and reflects the public's serious dissatisfaction. The credibility of the Defense Department is directly on the line, and this is just the beginning," said Mark S. Zaid, the Executive Director for The James Madison Project and the lead civilian defense counsel for several military service members refusing the anthrax vaccine. Congressional support for a modification to the mandatory nature of the AVIP is growing each week, added Zaid.

On July 20, 1999, Secretary of Defense William Cohen was sent a letter signed by 6 Congressmen that questioned, among other items, whether four preconditions for implementing the AVIP were actually met. The letter also stated that "we are concerned about the public perception of the anthrax vaccination program and its impacts on service member morale. We must ensure that this single force protection measure which addresses only one of a myriad of biological threats is not itself a more real threat to our citizens in uniform."

Following the press conference at 2:00 P.M. in Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Government Reform Committee, led by Chairman Burton will hold a hearing entitled, "Vaccines: Finding the Balance Between Public Safety and Personal Choice". The hearing will include testimony about the anthrax vaccine from a civilian employee of the Defense Department who has fallen ill from the vaccine and has been poorly treated by her military superiors.

The Defense Department is forcibly inoculating all 2.5 million active duty personnel, regardless of duty station or responsibilities, against anthrax at an estimated cost of $130 million. The immunization series calls for six injections of the vaccine over a period of 18 months, followed by annual booster shots. Vaccinations began in March 1998. The AVIP has been the subject of intense public criticism, particularly for the issuance of misleading and false statements concerning the vaccine. Hundreds of service-members have refused to accept the vaccine, and many have been dissuaded from filing reports with the FDA concerning possible adverse reactions. More importantly, dozens of reserve fighter and supply pilots are quitting rather than take the vaccine, thereby jeopardizing the United States' capabilities to conduct an air campaign.

JMP is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization with the primary purpose of educating the public on issues relating to intelligence gathering and operations, secrecy policies, national security and government wrongdoing.