- TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.
(AP) - An Air Force airman faces a possible court-martial for refusing
an anthrax vaccine that some servicemen fear may be linked to Gulf War
- The Pentagon has ordered the shot for all 1.5 million
active-duty service members and 1 million reservists. Airman 1st Class
Jeff Bettendorf refused, and was told he could be court-martialed as early
- Military officials insist the vaccine is safe and necessary
because rogue nations such as Iraq are suspected of storing anthrax in
- Anthrax is an infectious disease that occurs naturally
in livestock. Its dry spores can be stored in weapons and even microscopic
amounts can be fatal.
- But Bettendorf and other military personnel have complained
about possible side effects of the vaccine, including headaches, nausea
and dizziness. Critics also worry it could lead to cancer, lupus, chronic
fatigue syndrome and infertility.
- More than a dozen Marines have refused the shot.
- ''I can tell you there are a lot of people who are afraid
of getting this shot,'' Bettendorf said.
- Some Gulf War troops blame experimental vaccines given
during the 1991 conflict for illnesses they contracted.
- Under military law, anyone convicted in a summary court-martial
faces 30 days of confinement, a demotion in rank and forfeiture of two-thirds
pay for one month. Conviction would not mean a dishonorable discharge from
- Defense Secretary William Cohen in 1997 ordered development
of a program to inoculate troops against anthrax. All military forces are
expected to be immunized by 2004 or 2005. An annual booster shot is needed.
- Some members of the military have previously refused
the shot and some have been discharged.
- Travis spokesman Maj. Mike Halbig said if Bettendorf
is punished, it will be because of a refusal to follow an order.