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Anthrax Vaccine Side Effects Disable Many Military Veterans, Yet Very Little Help Is Available

Oct 30, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP The Anthrax vaccine, a mandatory immunization for many people serving in the US military, has been linked to dozens of serious side effects and adverse reactions.  But in spite of this, the Department of Defense still insists that the defective drug is perfectly safe.  And even though thousands of veterans have been permanently disabled following reactions to Anthrax vaccine side effects, the US government refuses to classify these injuries as combat related.  As a result, many disabled veterans face even greater economic hardship because their already-paltry disability benefits are still subject to income tax.

The US military began requiring many of its uniformed personnel and civilian contractors to receive an Anthrax vaccine in 1998, amid concerns that enemies might use the deadly virus in biological weapons.   Since then, well over 1 million people have received the controversial Anthrax vaccine.  In 2004, military personnel were given a reprieve from mandatory Anthrax vaccinations when a US court ruled that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) had to approve its use.  But the FDA did that in short order in 2005, and now the Anthrax vaccine is again a requirement for soldiers and contractors serving in the Middle East, Central Asia and Korea.

To date, the FDA has received more than 5,000 adverse event reports for the Anthrax vaccine on its Vaccine Adverse Reporting System.   At least 670 reports were classified as “serious”, and 44 resulted in deaths.  Some doctors have attributed 10-15 medical conditions to the Anthrax vaccine, and the side effects include everything from hearing loss, sleep disorders and neurological problems that mimic Multiple Sclerosis.  In spite of this, the Anthrax vaccine is not part of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program that allows people injured by defective vaccines to collect money for their injuries.

Soldiers and their families have repeatedly asked the Defense Department to stop using the Anthrax vaccine, but so far it has refused. For soldiers disabled by the Anthrax vaccine, life becomes both a physical and financial struggle.  Those suffering the most serious Anthrax vaccine side effects can no longer work, and are forced to rely on disability payments that can equal as little as a third of what they earned before they became sick.   What’s worse, even though the Anthrax vaccine is purportedly meant to protect these soldiers in combat situations, the injuries resulting from them are not considered combat related.  As a result, these already cash-strapped veterans must pay taxes on these small disability payments.

So far, the US military has resisted all efforts to recognize Anthrax vaccine side effects, let alone reclassify these debilitating injuries as combat related.  But a new bill in Congress could provide help to some veterans disabled by Anthrax vaccine side effects.  While not specifically related to the Anthrax vaccine, the Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act would give all disabled soldiers the same benefits given to retired veterans with 20 years of service.   While this won’t protect future soldiers from the ravages of Anthrax vaccine side effects, the act could lighten the financial burden faced by those disabled from exposure to this dangerous vaccine.

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