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The Law of Vaccines and the Military

Prof. Richard Rosen, Center Faculty and Director of the Center for Military Law, Texas Tech University

National Security and Vaccines in a Pandemic Flu

Prof. Richard Rosen, Director of the Military Law Center in collaboration with the Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy presents a 50-minute lecture on vaccinations and the military.


The ACLU has complained that the United States government has wrongly made pandemic flu planning a national security issue, but if we have, we are not alone in doing so. In fact, we may be one of the most protective countries of individual rights of the military, involved in pandemic flu planning, including the development of vaccine for pandemic flu.

Vietnam, one of the countries hardest hit by avian influenza, announced in March 2008, that they would begin using “volunteers” from the military to test the vaccine. The United States has approved a “pre-pandemic” vaccine, but if pandemic flu occurs, the military has been given top priority as one of the first groups to receive the vaccine.

While, the United States, does not use military personnel for drug trials, other issues in vaccination arise, in the context of national security, such as in the context of a pandemic flu outbreak. FDA regulations require that a drug be fully approved before being made available to not only the general public, but the military as well. Unless waived by the President for purposes of national security, Investigational New Drugs (INDs), or those in clinical trials, and not yet approved, are only administered to military personnel on a voluntary basis, informed-consent basis when they deploy to a “high-threat” area. Moreover, using military personnel as a source of test subjects could potentially render many non-deployable or even unfit for further service if the drug proved to produce significant adverse effects.

The United States government did conduct drug tests (such as LSD) on military personnel without their consent or knowledge in the 1950s, which has subsequently resulted in litigation.  See United States v. Stanley, 483 U.S. 669 (1987).

News links on vaccines, military and national security:

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