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Marines Deny Vaccine Charges

June 11, 1999

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (AP) _ Five Marines who would not take anthrax vaccinations have pleaded innocent to charges of refusing to obey an order.

The defendants are among dozens of U.S. military personnel who have refused vaccinations intended to protect them in case anthrax is used in biological warfare.

The men, all lance corporals, entered their pleas Thursday during an initial military hearing at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, a Mojave Desert training ground in southeastern California.

The hearing, expected to conclude today, will determine if a court martial will be held.

A Marine Corps legal expert, Maj. Steve Ockerman, said outside court that ``we feel the real issue here is one of discipline″ and a commander’s ability to give orders.

Defense attorney Mark Zaid has said he wants to put the vaccine on trial, raising the issue of whether it is safe.

A growing number of service personnel have refused the vaccine due to questions about side effects, including sterility.

More than 220,000 service members have been immunized, according to the Pentagon. Forty-two reported adverse effects, including seven serious enough to be hospitalized or take a sick day. All recovered from complaints, including soreness, rashes, headaches and fevers, U.S. officials have said.

The Pentagon has acknowledged that about 200 members of the military have balked at the immunizations.

Zaid, a civilian lawyer, entered innocent pleas for Jason Austin, 22, of Fritch, Texas; Michael McIntyre, 22, of Mount Vernon, Wash.; Jared Johnston, 19, of Henryetta, Okla.; Michael Metzig, 20, of San Diego; and Jared Schwartz, 20, Henderson, Ky.

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