FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1999-04-29

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
Mark S. Zaid, Esq.
(202) 785-3801

CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS REVEALS PENTAGON MISLED PUBLIC CONCERNING INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF ANTHRAX VACCINE

Members Of Congress Requesting Program To Be Made Voluntary Or Suspended

WASHINGTON, D.C. --

At an oversight hearing held today by the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations of the Committee on Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives to discuss the Pentagon's Anthrax Vaccination Immunization Program, it was revealed that the Pentagon misled the American public regarding an independent review of the vaccine conducted in 1998. Instead the review was conducted by someone with absolutely "no expertise in Anthrax" and purely to provide "a general oversight of the vaccination program."

On December 15, 1997, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen announced the implementation of a military-wide anthrax immunization plan that had been under review for two years. However, prior to the actual implementation of the program, four conditions were to have been met, the last of which required a "review of health and medical issues of the program by an independent expert." That independent expert was Dr. Gerard N. Burrow, Special Advisor to the President for Health Affairs, Yale University School of Medicine. Based on his report, which was submitted to Secretary Cohen on March 2, 1998, the vaccination program was implemented.

According to an April 26, 1999, letter sent to the Chairman of the Subcommittee, Congressman Christopher Shays (R-CT), by Dr. Burrow, a copy of which was obtained by The James Madison Project (JMP), the "Defense Department was looking for some [sic] to review the program in general and make suggestions." Dr. Burrow stated he "accepted out of patriotism." The letter suggests that the independent review was conducted purely as a public relations tool. Dr. Burrow informed Congressman Shays that the "suggestions I made were to utilize focus groups to be sure the message they wanted to send to force personnel was being heard." He concluded that he "had no further contact after delivering my report and do not know whether my suggestions were implemented."

"Dr. Burrow's revealing letter is but just another confirmation that the Pentagon has pushed the envelope every step of the way to ensure a vaccine of which we know so little is forced on our military personnel," said Mark S. Zaid, JMP's Executive Director. It also seriously calls into question whether at least one of Secretary Cohen's four conditions were truly met, and the credibility of the entire vaccination program, added Zaid.

Today's hearing featured witnesses from the General Accounting Office, FDA, DoD, the vaccine manufacturer, and individuals who have received the vaccine. Congressman Shays called upon the Defense Department to change its policy from mandatory to voluntary, citing the example of the United Kingdom and the many unanswered medical questions about the vaccine. Yesterday, Congressman Walter B. Jones (R-NC), a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, called on Secretary Cohen to suspend further involuntary anthrax inoculation on military personnel until more thorough testing can dismiss the possibility of associated health risks.

The Defense Department is forcibly inoculating all 2.4 million active duty personnel against anthrax at an estimated cost of $130 million. The immunization series calls for six injections of the "killed bacteria" vaccine over a period of 18 months, followed by annual booster shots. Vaccinations began in March 1998. The FDA first approved the vaccine in 1970. However, concerns have been raised about the vaccine's effectiveness against massive doses of weaponized anthrax anticipated in an intentional biological warfare attack. In addition, the only FDA-approved manufacturer, the Michigan Biologic Products Institute (now BioPort), has been repeatedly cited for quality control problems.

In April 1998, Mr. Zaid was the first attorney to represent military personnel refusing the vaccine when several sailors onboard the U.S.S. independence refused to submit to the vaccination. In March 1999, JMP represented in his court-martial proceeding, the first involving an anthrax refuser, at Travis Air Force Base based on his refusal to submit to the anthrax vaccine. Currently, JMP represents six Marines who are facing court-martial proceedings at Twenty-Nine Palms and Camp Pendleton in California. Mr. Zaid appeared as a witness at the first oversight hearing held by the Subcommittee on March 24, 1999. JMP is actively exploring filing a class action injunction against the Department of Defense for an immediate cessation of the anthrax vaccination program, which is currently mandatory.

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.

A copy of Dr. Burrow's letter is available upon request.