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Post-Vaccine Treatment Funding Uncertain Again

By David Ruppe
Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON — Funding for U.S. military clinics that investigate and treat illnesses following vaccinations for anthrax, smallpox and other diseases is in doubt for next fiscal year, once again placing their continued operation in jeopardy (see GSN, Jan. 10).


The Bush administration for fiscal 2007 did not request any funding for the Vaccine Healthcare Centers, which are estimated to cost $6 million annually to operate.

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved $2 million for the centers, which would be provided in addition to anything the military services might contribute from their health budgets, according to the committee’s report for its fiscal 2007 defense appropriations bill. No such funding was included in the House version of the bill approved June 20.

The centers are headquartered at the Army’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and also located at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the Air Force’s Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Congress created the first center at Walter Reed in 2000, as a site for specialized assessment, treatment and study of military and civilian personnel reportedly sickened by then-mandatory anthrax vaccinations. The other three sites opened in 2004.

Since their creation, the Army has reluctantly paid for the Navy and Air Force centers, with the Army Medical Command shifting money from its budget to keep all the sites going. Congress authorized $3 million for the centers for this fiscal year.

In apparent anticipation of the Iraq invasion, the Bush administration in 2002 began mandatory anthrax vaccinations for more than 1 million U.S. military personnel. Mandatory inoculations stopped after a federal judge ruled in October 2004 that they could not be required because the Food and Drug Administration did not properly approve the vaccine for the intended use.

The Food and Drug Administration reapproved the vaccine in December 2005, declaring it “safe and effective.” The military has not yet, though, said it would resume mandatory anthrax vaccinations. It is allowed to administer the vaccine on a strictly voluntary basis.

From fiscal 2003 and fiscal 2004, the centers treated approximately 1,200 recipients of the anthrax and other vaccines presenting a range of side effects, from muscle pain and chronic fatigue to multiple sclerosis, according to figures provided to Global Security Newswire by the Army (see GSN, May 6, 2005).

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