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E-News: Anthrax Vaccine Reactions (NVIC)

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E-NEWS FROM THE NATIONAL VACCINE INFORMATION CENTER

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NVIC Note: This information will be discussed at the Third International

Public Conference on Vaccination in Arlington, Virginia, Nov 7-9, 2002.

Major Sonnie Bates will tell about his refusal and his activism and Dr.

Walter Schumm will discuss anthrax and chronic illness. Register at

http://www.909shot.com

 

 

San Antonio Express-News

August 17, 2002

 

Ex-AF Officer Says Anthrax Vaccine Ended His Career

 

By Sig Christenson, Express-News Military Writer

 

As an Air Force weapons controller, Capt. Gregory Armand served his nation

In such far-flung parts of the world as Alaska and the Persian Gulf.

 

But Armand, a 36-year-old San Antonian, said his decadelong career ended

after he took a shot  not from a bullet, but from a syringe filled with

anthrax vaccine. Once a ground and airborne weapons control officer who

tracked up to 80 planes at a time, Armand's ability to concentrate is so bad

now he can't even fill out a check.

 

"It makes me sound very stupid," he said. "I am not, really."

 

Armand was joined at a news conference Friday by a former F-16 squadron

commander and the mother of an Austin-area soldier who claimed the vaccine

is dangerous.

 

The issue has been controversial since the Defense Department began

vaccinating large numbers of troops in 1998. Scores of officers and

enlistees defied the Pentagon order to begin taking the vaccine  a series of six

shots over 18 months  thinking the drug might be lethal.

 

At least 450 troops have been court-martialed, given nonjudicial punishment,

or discharged for refusing to be vaccinated, the Defense Department reported

Friday. Just three left the military over the matter in 2001.

 

Pentagon spokesman Jim Turner described the drug as safe, noting that the

Food and Drug Administration has approved it for use. He said reactions to

the drug have been "very much in line with any other kind of vaccine."

 

The vaccine also has caused no deaths among the 525,000 who have received

One or more shots in the series, he said.

 

But retired Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas S. Heemstra and Teresa Jones echoed

Armand's claims.

 

"Please do not leave today without a full sense of the injustice that's been

done to these victims who only wanted to serve their country and be the best

soldiers, Marines and airmen they could be," Heemstra, 43, said at the news

conference.

 

A commercial airline pilot who once commanded an F-16 squadron with the

Indian Air National Guard, Heemstra led a skirmish against Pentagon plans to

inoculate his pilots. The battle began after he and others began researching

the vaccine. After one briefing, Heemstra said, all those who attended vowed

to quit before taking the vaccine.

 

"All of them were volunteers to die for their country at the hands of the

enemy, but they weren't going to die because of our country's incompetence,"

said Heemstra, who has written a book on the issue, "Anthrax: A Deadly Shot

in the Dark."

 

Armand said he and a partner in a ground weapons team suffered flu-like

symptoms after taking an anthrax shot with six or seven other inoculations

in 1990. Deployed to the Persian Gulf, he said they never got over the fever,

body aches and bloody diarrhea they suffered. The other man later died.

 

"His wife said (the cause of death) was unknown. They had just divorced; he

was acting bizarre," Armand said.

 

Then-Spc. Joseph Jones, 26, of Cedar Park, just north of Austin, fell ill

with what seemed like a bad case of the flu after taking his first anthrax

shot in Kuwait in 1999. It was on the fourth shot, however, that Teresa

Jones said her son suffered the first of more than 250 seizures.

 

Jones, who was working Friday, still suffers from muscular aches, severe

headaches and bloody diarrhea. When he blacks out, he see stars and spots

and remembers nothing afterward, his mother said.

 

Discharged in 1999 with no benefits, he's divorced, lives with his mother,

and works as a part-time computer salesman.

 

"It's almost like dealing with Alzheimer's," said Teresa Jones, a

47-year-old secretary in Austin. "And he's only 26."

 

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ALL INFORMATION, DATA, AND MATERIAL CONTAINED, PRESENTED, OR PROVIDED HERE IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS REFLECTING THE KNOWLEDGE OR OPINIONS OF THE PUBLISHER, AND IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED OR INTENDED AS PROVIDING MEDICAL OR LEGAL ADVICE.  THE DECISION WHETHER OR NOT TO VACCINATE IS AN IMPORTANT AND COMPLEX ISSUE AND SHOULD BE MADE BY YOU, AND YOU ALONE, IN CONSULTATION WITH YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER.