FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1999-06-29

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

INTERNAL GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS REVEAL THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY CHARACTERIZED THE ANTHRAX VACCINE AS INVOLVING UNUSUALLY HAZARDOUS RISKS

Documents Used To Support Vaccine Manufacturer's Request For Indemnification

WASHINGTON, D.C. --

Previously undisclosed internal government documents have revealed that the U.S. Army last year quietly provided full indemnification to the lone manufacturer of the Anthrax vaccine, Michigan Biologic Products Institute (now a private company named BioPort). The documents, copies of which were provided by The James Madison Project to the San Diego Union Tribune (http://www.uniontrib.com), are the subject of an exclusive article appearing in today's edition by reporter Dwight Daniels.

In a Memorandum of Decision dated September 3, 1998, Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera justified indemnification because the vaccine "involves unusually hazardous risks associated with the potential for adverse reactions in some recipients and the possibility that the desired immunological effect will not be obtained by all recipients." The memorandum also confirms critics of the vaccination program's belief that "there is no way to be certain that the pathogen used in tests measuring vaccine efficacy will be sufficiently similar to the pathogen that U.S. forces might encounter to confer immunity."

"This high-level document is the rosetta stone revealing the Pentagon's hidden secrets surrounding the anthrax vaccine's many significant faults. The conclusions reached by Secretary Caldera absolutely contradict the false public statements of the Pentagon that are continually offered to convince service members that the vaccine is safe and effective," 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. Either the government is misleading the public through its media campaign or it has exaggerated, possibly unlawfully, the concerns surrounding the vaccine in order to justify financially protecting its sole manufacturing source, added Zaid.

An earlier version of the indemnification request submitted for Secretary of the Army Togo West's signature in early 1998, revealed other serious concerns regarding the vaccine including "a) the limited use of the vaccine to date ... and b) insufficient experience in mass immunization programs to truly evaluate the efficacy of the vaccine." As recently as this month, however, the Defense Department has continued to publicly assert that the adverse reaction rate of the immunization program is as low as .01 percent; a figure that was derived from a monitoring process criticized by the General Accounting Office at a Congressional hearing this past April.

"This is the same critical evidence we attempted to raise during recent court-martial proceedings of service members, but which was excluded following adamant denouncements by the Government that our defenses were irrelevant or inaccurate. Obviously they are not, and the American people should be outraged," said Zaid. As a result of the Court's exclusion of this evidence, this past week five Marines at Twenty-Nine Palms Air Ground Combat Center, California, were all convicted of disobeying a direct order, sentenced to the brig and given bad conduct discharges. Several more Marines are to face trial next month at Marine Corp Air Station Miramar and Camp Pendleton, 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. In recent months several members of Congress have called upon the Pentagon to revert to a voluntary vaccination program, as is implemented in the United Kingdom, or stop the program altogether. The Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations of the House Government Reform Committee is scheduled to convene the third of four oversight hearings on June 30, 1999, in order to examine the Department of Defense's sole source procurement of the anthrax vaccine.

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