April 18, 2001

Massachusetts Lawmaker To Introduce Bill Banning Anthrax Vaccine Use On State's Military

Dave Eberhart
Stars and Stripes Veterans Affairs Editor

When a frustrated and ailing Capt. Jason Nietupski of the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Mary Rogeness, he hoped she could light a fire under his disability claim for severe reactions to the military's anthrax vaccine.

Rogeness not only promised to help, but will introduce legislation April 23 to prohibit "the administration of experimental drugs and vaccines to members of the Massachusetts militia."

Rogeness told The Stars and Stripes April 18 that she is canvassing her colleagues for co-sponsors. "I've had lots of positive responses," said Rogeness, the daughter of a doctor who served in the Navy during World War II.

Adverse Reactions

"A constituent from my district, U.S. Army Reserve Captain Jason Nietupski, has suffered adverse reactions to the anthrax vaccination including life-threatening blood clots in one leg," Rogeness tells her fellow lawmakers. "Captain Nietupski was vaccinated in February 2000, prior to being deployed to South Korea. He is currently a patient at the Northampton VA Hospital.

"Scores of other service members nationwide have complained of similar serious reactions to the vaccine. Presently, the U.S. military has a mandatory anthrax vaccination program which is intended to protect against biological warfare. It is my hope to protect the members of the Massachusetts Guard from being forced to take such an experimental vaccine."

The bill prohibits the Massachusetts adjutant general from administering "any drug or vaccine to any member of the organized militia, State Guard or naval militia, not in the service of the United States" unless it is licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration "for its intended purpose," is used in accordance FDA rules and "has been proven to be both safe and efficacious in clinical tests on human beings."

Rogeness said she decided to act after considering the "whole package" of information about the anthrax vaccine, including "extensive documentation" provided by Nietupski.

Nietupski, who has received training in hospital administration, April 18 provided written testimony to a special panel of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM), meeting in Washington, D.C., to assess the controversial vaccine.

"The VA continues to argue that my injuries from the anthrax vaccine are not considered service-connected injuries," he testifed.

Nietupski maintains that a memorandum from Assistant Secretary of Defense Dr. Sue Bailey stipulates that any adverse reactions to the anthrax vaccine are "service-connected." The memorandum is titled, "Ensuring Reserve Components Have Full Access to DoD Military Treatment Facilities for Treatment and Evaluation of Adverse Events from DoD Directed Immunizations."

Others testifying before the IOM panel included Air Force Capt. John Buck, an emergency medicine physician at Keesler Air Force Base, La., who faces a court-martial May 15 for refusing the vaccine.

Buck told the panel that if a Coca Cola plant were to receive the same FDA discrepancy reports as has the BioPort Corp., of Lansing, Mich.--the sole manufacturer of the anthrax vaccine--"that coke would not be allowed to be distributed to the public. Any that made it out the door would be recalled."