Posted on Thu, Jul. 01, 2004
Pentagon expands vaccination policy
Because more vaccine is available, the Defense Department says, more
soldiers will be inoculated against anthrax and smallpox.
BY THOM SHANKER
New York Times
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon announced a major expansion of its vaccination
program Wednesday with a new order requiring that anthrax and smallpox
vaccine be administered to all U.S. forces and essential civilians in
the Middle East and, for the first time, to troops in South Korea.
Pentagon officials said the decision announced Wednesday resulted from
an increased supply of vaccine, and not from an increased threat of
The Pentagon said it had given anthrax shots to 1.1 million people since
1998, and since December 2002 more than 625,000 Pentagon and military
personnel have been vaccinated against smallpox.
In January, a federal judge lifted an injunction halting the military's
mandatory anthrax vaccination program, allowing the Pentagon to resume
giving shots to any personnel except the six people who brought the
lawsuit. They have all remained anonymous.
The plaintiffs argued that the vaccine had been approved by the Food and
Drug Administration to protect against skin exposure to anthrax -- but
not against anthrax that is inhaled, the far greater battlefield threat.
Thus, the judge said, the vaccine was an "investigational" drug being
forced on the troops for an unapproved purpose.
On Dec. 30, the FDA declared the anthrax vaccine effective against the
inhaled form of the bacteria.
Some troops deployed to the Middle East have received the vaccines. Now,
everyone sent to the area managed by U.S. Central Command -- which
stretches from North Africa to Pakistan -- will be required to take
them, unless doctors determine the vaccines pose a serious risk to them.
Defense Department contractors and civilian employees deemed essential
will also be required to take the vaccines. Nonessential contractors and
civilians have the option of taking them, as do family members of
soldiers, contractors and civilian employees who live in the affected