ANTHRAX VACCINE: Program Will Continue, Pentagon Says
The Pentagon plans to continue to give the anthrax inoculation to its troops, despite Congress' "scalding critique" of the program, the New York Times reports. Pentagon officials yesterday defended the program after the House Committee on Government Reform national security subcommittee released a report stating that the program "relied on incomplete, outdated science and suffered from poor planning." However, DOD officials said the vaccine is necessary to protect the 2.4 million armed forces troops from the possibility of an anthrax attack. Based on intelligence reports, at least 10 countries, including Iraq and North Korea, have the capability to produce biological weapons. Dr. Sue Bailey, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said, "We have a very safe and effective vaccine against a very deadly biologic agent that ... could be used against our forces" (Myers, 2/18). More than 400,000 troops have undergone the military's inoculation regimen; 620 adverse reactions have been reported, Bailey said. However, she noted that only six cases required hospitalization for side effects associated with the vaccine. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Randy West, a Gulf war commander, said, "It's very important that we use the existing and available, safe and effective vaccine to give our troops that go in harm's way the protection that they deserve" (AP/Washington Times, 2/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.