The Defense Department appears to be considering giving troops in the Persian Gulf an experimental vaccine that protects against deadly botulism.
The Food and Drug Administration gave the Pentagon a special waiver last month to give experimental drugs to American soldiers in the event of combat, or the threat of combat, without the need for informed consent.The Pentagon's request, published with the FDA's waiver in the Dec. 21 Federal Register, did not identify drugs or vaccines by name.
However, in one section it mentioned "a vaccine long recognized by the Centers for Disease Control as the primary preventive treatment available for a particular disease."
CDC spokesman Chuck Fallis said the Pentagon letter was describing a vaccine that protects against a deadly bacterial toxin that causes botulism. He said he knew nothing about whether the Pentagon planned to distribute it.
But Dr. Michael Grodin, a professor in Boston University's law, medicine and ethics program, said a Defense Department official told him recently that it planned to use the vaccine.
Grodin said he called Dr. Edward Martin, deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, to get more information about use of experimental drugs and vaccines in the Persian Gulf after news reports about the Pentagon's FDA waiver.
In their conversation, he said, Martin told him military officials wanted to use the botulism vaccine to protect against a toxin the Iraqis might use.
Defense Department officials declined to comment.
In other Mideast-related developments:
- Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Friday there is "no question, no doubt, no gray area" regarding the power of Congress - and not President Bush - to authorize a war in the Persian Gulf.
"We have not seen such arrogance in a president since Watergate," Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said during a day of freewheeling and lopsided Senate debate on the constitutional issues raised by the gulf crisis.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. Brock Adams, D-Wash., proposed a resolution affirming that Bush must come to Congress for its approval before going on the offensive to drive Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
- Japan's lone aid team in Saudi Arabia has returned home, and officials were unsure Friday whether the government would send more.
The seven doctors and nurses who made up Japan's second medical assistance team had all left by Dec. 28, the Foreign Ministry said Friday, ending a mission plagued by too few volunteers and what critics say is the Japanese people's unwillingness to consider the Iraqi invasion their problem.
Both missions drew only a total of two dozen volunteers.
- The United States and Saudi Arabia have agreed to postpone a big arms deal until after the gulf crisis is over, the State Department said Friday.
The exact size of the deal would have been in the area of $15 billion, the largest single arms sale package in history.
The postponement puts off a potentially bruising fight between the administration and pro-Israeli members of Congress.
- Groups in the United States and France Friday called on Americans at home and abroad to protest possible U.S. military action in the Persian Gulf.
A national coalition of human rights, labor and community groups called for a massive protest on Jan. 19 in the Washington against war in the Gulf.
And the Paris-based "Americans for Peace" group called on Americans to march Monday for a peaceful solution to the crisis.