- WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Fourteen sailors and two Air Force enlisted personnel
serving in the Persian Gulf have refused to be vaccinated for the biological
warfare agent anthrax, apparently due to fears of possible health effects,
CNN has learned.
- Two sailors have been dismissed from
the Navy and one member of the Air Force has been reduced in rank for refusing
the inoculation. A dozen other troops also face punishment.
- Military spokesmen say two airmen and
seven sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and seven
sailors aboard the carrier USS Independence have refused the vaccine that
has already been given to 15,000 Navy personnel in the Gulf.
- Opposition to the inoculations apparently
began several weeks ago when the first of the shots were being administered
to the more than 37,000 U.S. military personnel now in the Gulf region.
- The refusals appear to stem from an "investigational
drug" given to U.S. troops before the 1991 Gulf War to protect them
against nerve gas. Although it has not been proven, many veterans suspect
that the nerve gas vaccine may be responsible for illnesses suffered after
the war by troops stationed there.
- The Pentagon admits that it did not adequately
inform the troops during the Gulf War about the vaccines, but says it is
doing a much better job now.
- "They've done better, frankly, in
the last year, 18 months," says Phil Budahn of the American Legion.
"But we still have that legacy of years of stonewalling, years of
not telling the truth to the American people."
- Anthrax vaccine fully licensed
- The anthrax vaccine is not investigational
or experimental and has been
in use for decades without
any apparent ill effects.
- "As far as the risks," says
Lt. Gen. Ronald Blanck, the
Army Surgeon General, "the (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has
approved this vaccine since 1970. It's fully licensed."
- Two sailors aboard the Stennis were discharged
from the Navy for "disobeying a lawful general order."
- Lt. Cmdr. Mark McDonald, a spokesman
for the Navy's U.S. Atlantic Fleet, told CNN that the two sailors had previous
discipline problems that "demonstrated a pattern" of misconduct
that contributed to their dismissal.
- The two members of the Air Force, one
of them a woman, were also disciplined, but only one was reduced in rank.
It is not clear what action was taken against the other.
- The punishment for the remaining five
objectors aboard the Stennis includes 30 days restriction to the ship,
30 days extra duty, reduction in pay for one month and reduction in rank.
None of the sailors was above the rank of "E-4", a very junior
- A Navy spokesman for the U.S. Pacific
Fleet headquarters in Hawaii said that the seven sailors aboard the Independence
received similar punishment, but that none were expected to be dismissed.
- 'That's why they call them orders'
- Whether, and under what conditions, those
who refused to take the vaccine will be inoculated is still being sorted
out by officials. But continued refusal could lead to further discipline,
- All members of the U.S. military are
required to receive the vaccine, although those serving in the Persian
Gulf got them first because of possible conflict there with Iraq.
- Marine and Army officials say that none
of their service members have refused to take the inoculations, and officers
at the Pentagon were not very forgiving of those who did refuse.
- "It's not an option," said
- "It's not like you get to decide
what inoculations you take," said a Navy officer. "That's why
they call them orders."
- Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie
McIntyre contributed to this report.