FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1999-08-31

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

INTERNET E-MAIL PETITION INITIATED TO SUPPORT PENDING CONGRESSIONAL ANTHRAX

Legislation Would Change The Mandatory Nature

WASHINGTON, D.C. --

The Executive Director of The James Madison Project, Mark S. Zaid, Esq. has initiated an internet e-mail petition designed to demonstrate support of two pending bills within the House of Representatives that would change the mandatory nature of the Pentagon's Anthrax Vaccination Immunization Program (AVIP). The petition, which has nearly accumulated 1,000 signatures in less than two weeks, will be automatically sent to President Clinton, Secretary of Defense William Cohen, and the Department of the Army on September 17, 1999.

"This petition is designed to maximize the use of the Internet in this increasingly heated debate over the future of the Pentagon's anthrax vaccination program," said Mark S. Zaid, Executive Director for The James Madison Project. The petition states that its rationale rests, in part, on the fact that "[f]rom 300-500 dedicated servicemembers (and the number is growing) have been needlessly punished solely for refusing this vaccine, and the AVIP is threatening the readiness of our military by forcing senior, experienced Air National Guard pilots and flight crews to quit or resign so that they can avoid the vaccination."

The two legislative bills, H.R. 2543 and H.R. 2548, were introduced by Congressmen Walter Jones (R-NC) and Ben Gilman (R-NY), respectively. Congressman (Chairman) Steve Buyer (R-IN) has been requested to hold a Fall'99 hearing on both bills before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel. H.R. 2543 would modify the mandatory nature of the AVIP to voluntary, while 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.

"I encourage everyone to sign the petition and pass it on to friends and family. By standing together, we can generate enough Congressional support to effect a change in the Pentagon's mandatory policy," said Zaid. Members of Congress should be requested to co-sponsor one or both of the two bills as soon as possible, added Zaid.

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. Approximately 300-500 active-duty 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, more than 350 fighter and supply pilots have quit or resigned from the Air National Guard or Reserves 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.