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Pilots Punished for Refusing Vaccine

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - At least a dozen Indiana Air National Guard pilots in Fort Wayne are barred from flying for refusing an anthrax vaccination required for an upcoming mission overseas, pilots say.

Members of the 122nd Fighter Wing, which is scheduled to be sent to the Middle East in April, have until Sunday to begin the series of six shots. The vaccination program had been voluntary until now.

"Everybody is worried about safety," said Capt. Bruce Everett, a commercial pilot barred from flying for the Guard in January for refusing the vaccine. ``I don't know if it's unsafe. All I know is that there hasn't been enough research to prove that it is safe.''

The Pentagon has ordered all of its 2.4 million active and reserve personnel be inoculated against anthrax, a deadly germ that can be used in biological warfare.

About 200 to 300 people have refused the vaccine so far, according to the Pentagon. Several men and women have been prosecuted, and many reservists have quit because of the shots.

Twelve pilots now barred from flying at Fort Wayne plan to resign or transfer to avoid inoculation, said Everett, Lt. Col. Tom Heemstra and two other pilots who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Lt. Col. Perry Collins, chief of staff of the 122nd Fighter Wing, confirmed only that some pilots are not being allowed to fly. He said squadron commanders do not want to spend money training the pilots until they decide to stay with the base.

The Guard said those who refuse to take the vaccine by Sunday's deadline will be disobeying a written order and could face additional penalties, including discharge.