FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1999-03-23

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

JMP'S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TO TESTIFY BEFORE CONGRESS

Hearing Tomorrow To Focus On Performance Of The Pentagon's Anthrax Vaccination Immunization Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. --

Mark S. Zaid, the Executive Director for The James Madison Project (JMP), will appear tomorrow, March 24, 1999, before the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations of the Committee on Government Reform in the U.S. House of Representatives to provide testimony on the Pentagon's Anthrax Vaccination Immunization Program. JMP recently represented Airman Jeffrey Bettendorf in his court-martial proceeding at Travis Air Force Base based on his refusal to submit to the anthrax vaccine. Bettendorf's court-martial was the first involving an anthrax refuser.

"The Defense Department has openly misled its personnel and the American public on the overall safety of the anthrax vaccine. The documentary evidence unequivocally demonstrates that no information exists concerning the long-term effect of the vaccine on humans, and that the adverse reaction rates are up to seven times greater than expected," said Mark S. Zaid, JMP's Executive Director. Zaid added that the program should be administered as voluntary until such time additional studies can be conducted.

The Defense Department plans to inoculate 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 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the vaccine for civilian use against incidental infection 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 (MBPI), has been repeatedly cited for quality control problems.

"Anthrax immunization is mandatory, even though no controlled human trials are available to support the conclusion it is safe in the long term or effective against airborne concentrations," said Congressman Christopher Shays (R-CT), Chairman of the Subcommittee holding tomorrow's hearing. "Too often the Pentagon has broken faith and lost credibility on medical matters," Shays said. "Radiation testing, Agent Orange, Gulf War illnesses, the reckless use of experimental drugs, all make individual soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines understandably wary about 'medical force protection' that may be more effective protecting the military mission than their health."

The March 24, 1999, hearing will take place at 10 a.m. in room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building. In addition to Mr. Zaid, witnesses will include the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, members of the Air National Guard and other military personnel who have refused anthrax injections, and others.

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. As General Counsel for the non-profit organization Veterans for Integrity in Government, Mr. Zaid also filed an action in June 1998, under the Freedom of Information Act that forced the Defense Department and the military to disclose thousands of pages of documents that were previously unseen.

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.

Copies of Mr. Zaid's Congressional Testimony Are Available Upon Request Via E-Mail