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3 Allege Reprisals Over Smallpox Shots

The Associated Press

Three civilians in the U.S. Merchant Marine say they refused to be vaccinated against smallpox and anthrax and were fired from the crew of a ship loaded with Army vehicles.

The ship's captain, Joseph Hood, said no one had been fired and declined to comment about the shots.

The three were assigned to the Cape Taylor, one of three "ready reserve" ships docked at Corpus Christi. The ship is believed to be heading to the Middle East with Army tanks and trucks.

The three civilians are part of the ship's crew of 27 and are among 20 who belong to the Seafarers International Union.

"If they do not replace us they cannot sail, and that is Coast Guard rules," Erik Ortwein of Tacoma, Wash., told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on Sunday. "A lot of people are worried about this."

Ortwein, Lino Remorin of McAllen, Texas, and Jose Camales of Puerto Rico said Hood fired them Sunday after they refused to sign papers committing them to be immunized.

They said Sunday was the first time they were told the shots would be required.

"They gave us no information," said Ortwein. "No doctors, no physicals. I have no idea how this stuff was manufactured."