Pentagon to Reserve Supply of Anthrax Vaccine for Civilians
A senior Pentagon official said yesterday that much of the military's anthrax vaccine supply, "originally intended exclusively for military personnel," likely will be reserved for civilian use, the AP/Nando Times reports. Instead of vaccinating all 2.4 million members of the armed forces, as originally planned when the vaccine program was launched in 1998, the Pentagon likely will give the vaccine to personnel "deemed most at risk," according to David Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Citing the Sept. 11 attacks, Chu said, "The events of last fall were really a wake-up call for the country about the possibility of biological agents being used as a weapon of mass destruction, and therefore this is no longer just a military personnel problem. This is also a national problem." While stating that the government is "not going to vaccinate the whole population," Chu said that eventually the Pentagon likely "will set aside a major part of what vaccine is available to be sure we can protect the civilian population of the United States." The Pentagon's vaccination program has been the source of some controversy since its inception four years ago. While the government "insists the vaccine is safe," a number of armed forces personnel have refused to be inoculated, resulting in their discharge. In addition, the Pentagon was forced to scale back the program because of factory violations at BioPort, the nation's sole manufacturer of the vaccine. In January, the FDA approved the company's manufacturing plan to resume production and release 500,000 doses it had already made (Burns, AP/Nando Times, 5/30).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.