ARLINGTON, Va. — The Pentagon resumed its anthrax vaccination program late
Wednesday after a federal judge earlier that day lifted the temporary
injunction against forced inoculations that he imposed Dec. 22.
All troops, except for the six anonymous people who originally filed the
federal lawsuit, will again be required to receive the six-dose vaccine if
they are deploying to countries deemed by the military as "high risk."
For security reasons, the names of those areas are not made public.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan reversed his initial
injunction of two weeks ago, after the Justice Department showed the Food and
Drug Administration, tasked with licensing such products, issued a final ruling
that the vaccine is, in fact, intended to guard against both the skin and
inhaled forms of anthrax.
At issue for Sullivan was whether the FDA had in the 1970s approved the
vaccine to guard against inhalation anthrax. He ruled he found no evidence to
support the Pentagon's assertion that it did, and thus issued the injunction.
Sullivan remarked during Wednesday's court hearing that he found the timing
of the FDA's ruling "suspicious," but he could not deny that was the evidence
he was looking for and issued the stay.
The military vaccinates an average of 3,500 troops a day, in part because
they are gearing up for the second rotation to
Iraq, said Health Affairs Department spokesman Perry Bishop.
Officials said they did not know exactly how many were deployed without the
"There is a small number of folks who … deployed during that two-week period,
and since it occurred over the holidays, it's likely a small number," Bishop
The Pentagon's message to military leaders: "You should immediately resume
the anthrax vaccination program," read a part of a memo signed by David Chu,
undersecretary of defense for Personnel and Readiness, and available at
While the vaccine is the best round-the-clock protection afforded to the
troops, it isn't the only protection, Pentagon spokesman James Turner said last
week. Troops deploy with protective clothing and detection devices, and they
can take antibiotics if exposed.
Sullivan's granting of the stay "is just a place holder until we get the rest
of this done," said Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman. "It's not
really over yet."
A hearing is set for Jan. 16 before Sullivan to determine when the court will
hear arguments on several motions.
Mark Zaid, representing the six anonymous plaintiffs, told the judge he plans
to continue the fight to stop the vaccine program, first arguing against the
FDA's rule that the vaccine is safe, and also that the Pentagon has violated
the process by giving vaccines to some troops out of sequence, violating the
FDA licensing guidelines.
More information on the Pentagon's vaccination program
is available at:
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