Some troops got anthrax shots after judge banned them

Feb 3, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – The US military gave anthrax shots to more than 900 soldiers after a federal judge ordered a halt to the mandatory vaccination program last October, according to news reports this week.

The Department of Defense (DoD) said that 931 people were "mistakenly vaccinated" after US District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered the program stopped on Oct 27, 2004, according to a Feb 1 Associated Press report. The story said 150 service members were vaccinated in January.

In a lawsuit brought by six service members and civilian defense workers, Sullivan ruled that the Food and Drug Administration had not followed proper procedures in approving the use of anthrax vaccine adsorbed for inahalational anthrax.

DoD officials told Sullivan yesterday that the shots were given even though Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had called a halt to them after the court ruling, according to a Washington Post report today.

The story said Col. Steven P. Jones, director of the military vaccine agency, told Sullivan that he ordered the removal of all remaining anthrax vaccine doses from military clinics after he learned that some vaccinations were continuing.

About 1.2 million DoD and contractor personnel have received anthrax shots since the vaccination program began in 1998. Almost 500 service members have refused to take the vaccine, and more than 100 have been court-martialed for their refusal, the Post reported yesterday.

The FDA recently issued an emergency order to allow DoD to resume the vaccination program because of what the Pentagon believes is an increased risk of anthrax attacks on US forces. The order says that troops must be allowed to refuse the shots without facing any penalties.

DoD officials said this week that with the emergency order in hand, they will ask Sullivan to lift the injunction against the vaccination program. But they said it could take several weeks for the judge to issue a decision.

See also:

Feb 2, 2005, CIDRAP News story "FDA issues emergency order on military anthrax shots" http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/bt/anthrax/news/feb0205anthrax.html

Previous CIDRAP News stories on the situation are available at:
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/bt/anthrax/news/index.html

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