Witness Testifies That Anthrax Vaccine Is Safe

The potency and safety tests that were conducted on the anthrax vaccine, came under fire Wednesday in the court martial proceedings of a Keesler doctor who refused to take the controversial anthrax vaccine.

Capt. John Buck refused to take the shot last October, and now he's charged with disobeying a lawful order. Buck's attorneys are challenging the order.

Army Lt. Col. John Grabenstein was the prosecution's only witness on Wednesday. He disputed a defense witness, who testified Tuesday that the testing of the vaccine had only been performed on animals, not humans, and that the tests were unreliable and the drug is unsafe.

Defense documents show that the batch or lot of vaccine that Capt. Buck would have received did not undergo additional testing, as ordered by the secretary of defense. However, Col. Grabenstein said extra tests were unnecessary on that, and earlier batches.

"I think the safety is clear. It causes sore arms and feelings of discomfort that are short term. There are no patterns of long term effects," Col. Grabenstein said. "We've looked and can't find them. Every dose of the vaccine has been approved and released by the FDA."

After the hearing adjourned for the day, John Michiels, Buck's Virginia attorney who filed a lawsuit on Buck's behalf two weeks ago against the government, issued a statement.

"After the government's only witness testified, the question remains: where is the FDA? Who is regulating the regulators?" Michiels' statement read. "If this policy were truly legal, why didn't the Air Force simply ask the FDA to testify at this hearing?"

Keesler Chief of Military Justice Capt. Jim Winner responded to Michiels' statement, saying, "They're not here because this case is about an officer who refused to obey an order, an order based upon a DOD mandated policy to innoculate our troops with the anthrax vaccine."

Buck's attorneys also question the conditions under which the anthrax vaccine was manufactured in a lab in Michigan. But prosecutors say the FDA made 50 inspections of the lab since 1972, and cited it only once for problems in March, 1998, when the FDA issued a license revocation warning to the lab.

That the lab is still open today, but no longer produces the anthrax vaccine. Buck's hearing is expected to finish Thursday, but it is unclear if the judge will rule then.