April 24, 2002

Man Says Anthrax Vaccine Harming His Health

KOCO Channel, Oklahoma

A man who was administered the anthrax vaccine by the U.S. Army claims he is suffering from seizures, blackouts and migraine headaches as a result of the vaccine.

Joseph Jones told Eyewitness News 5 that he was forced to take the vaccine while serving in Kuwait in 1999. "We had no choice," Jones said. "Some of us were scared. We weren't sure what it was."

Jones said he received the shot over an eight-month period. The first seizure occurred after the fourth shot, he said.

"I was in perfect condition, and all of the sudden I go down," he recalled.

During his final year in the military, Jones said he suffered 171 seizures before being medically discharged.

"They're not willing to stand up and say, 'yes, we did give them a vaccine that might have made him sick," Jones said.

Jones currently receives 10 percent of his salary through disability, but he said it's not enough.

He thinks he should receive at least 30 percent disability, but the military argues that there hasn't been enough proof about his current physical condition to warrant an increase.

"I'm trying to prove to them that I'm having seizures," he said. "I deserve 30 percent, and if I don't get that, I'm going to fight until I do."

Jones claims that he suffers two seizures a week, but insisted it would be too expensive to document his condition each time he has a problem.

Eyewitness News 5 contacted the Veterans Affairs, which said it believes Jones would qualify for benefits that will help him out financially.

The U.S. Army did not return phone calls seeking comment.

April 1, 2002

Pentagon Prepares for More Vaccine

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is considering a resumption of anthrax vaccinations for U.S. troops now that the nation's sole maker of the vaccine has been cleared to resume production.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday he was awaiting a recommendation on how and when to resume an inoculation program. He said the details were being considered by Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who
will forward his recommendation to Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld did not say definitively that the program would be restarted, but other officials said Myers had received a recommendation that it be phased in as soon as sufficient doses of vaccine are available.

On Jan. 31 the Food and Drug Administration approved BioPort's new manufacturing plant to produce anthrax vaccine. The Pentagon immediately welcomed the approval but said it had not yet decided the future of its immunization program, which in 1997 set a goal of immunizing all 2.4 million U.S. troops.

On Monday Rumsfeld indicated that vaccine shots were likely to resume. He said he was preparing to make "final decisions about how it might be reinstituted and when and on what basis."

"There are a series of technical questions that are being looked at as to how one might do it and in what format and in what sequence and those types of things," he added. "It's an important issue, and goodness knows you want to do it right."

Four years of BioPort factory violations had left the Pentagon with dwindling supplies and forced it to limit vaccine shots to certain troops on special missions.

In addition to the problem with supplies, the Pentagon has kicked hundreds of military personnel out of the service for refusing to take the shots. Some of those who chose not to take the vaccine worried it could be connected to complaints of chronic fatigue, memory loss and other problems.

The government says the vaccine is safe, with rare occurrences of severe side effects such as dangerous allergic reactions.

In March a panel of scientists endorsed the safety and effectiveness of the anthrax vaccine, but also recommended research into improving it. The study by the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine concluded that the vaccine protects against all forms of anthrax and has no more serious side effects than other vaccines given to adults.

Last year's anthrax-by-mail attacks focused additional attention on the vaccine. The impetus for the Pentagon's 1997 decision to immunize every member of the military was a growing concern that Iraq or another country hostile to the United States might attack U.S. forces with a biological agent such as anthrax.