Friday, December 17, 2004

Another case of crying Wolfowitz

Here's more on the anthrax vaccination issue. As noted in a previous post, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has requested that the Secretary of DHHS declare an emergency to allow resumption of the controversial mandatory anthrax vaccination of military personnel. The program was suspended by a federal judge in October as a result of a lawsuit by six anonymous plaintiffs alleging that the vaccine was not approved for DoD's intended use, has not been shown effective against pulmonary as opposed to cutaneous anthrax, and has led to adverse health effects in some. The judge's order vacated a December 2003 FDA ruling that the vaccine was safe and effective for all routes of exposure. In a story that broke on 12/15/04, Chris Stroem at quotes the judge's opinion:
"Unless and until FDA properly classifies AVA as a safe and effective drug for its intended use, an injunction shall remain in effect prohibiting [the military's] use of AVA on the basis that the vaccine is either a drug unapproved for its intended use or an investigational new drug...Accordingly, the involuntary anthrax vaccination program, as applied to all persons, is rendered illegal absent informed consent or a presidential waiver."
Stroem also has seen Wolfowitz's memo, which claims that
"... there is a significant potential for a military emergency involving a heightened risk to United States military forces of attack with anthrax."

"In making this determination I have considered a classified November 2004 Intelligence Community assessment of the anthrax threat. This heightened risk has been and continues to be the basis for the DoD program of vaccinating personnel serving in the areas of the Central Command [Iraq and Afghanistan] and Korea."
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit say that an emergency cannot be declared by a Deputy Secretary (only the Secretary) and moreover, neither DHHS nor DoD has authority to grant a waiver. That must come from the President himself.

The military's anthrax program seems as poorly thought out as their occupation of Iraq. Both have put US troops into unnecessary danger and pigheadedness is keeping them there.