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Pentagon Poised To Require Anthrax Vaccine Again


(October 16, 2006)--Anthrax shots are about to be required once again for American soldiers serving in certain regions considered dangerous.

While more than a million troops have been vaccinated, hundreds of others have refused, citing safety concerns, which led to disciplinary actions and a court battle, in which a federal judge suspended the program for several months.

A doctor who serves as the Pentagon's assistant secretary for health affairs says the vaccine is safe, which is what the Food and Drug Administration ruled last year.

So within 60 days, the plan is to give the anthrax vaccine to soldiers in the Mideast, the Korean Peninsula and Central Asia.

"The anthrax vaccine will protect our troops from another threat--a disease that will kill, caused by a bacteria that already has been used as a weapon in America, and that terrorists openly discuss," said Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

The new policy will also allow troops who have received the vaccine, but who are no longer in higher-threat areas, to receive follow-up vaccinations and booster shots voluntarily.

Under the voluntary policy implemented after the the program was suspended, about 50 percent of the troops received the vaccine.

"This rate of vaccination not only put the service members at risk, but also jeopardized unit effectiveness and degraded medical readiness. The threat environment and the unpredictable nature of terrorism make it necessary to include biological warfare defense as part of our force protection measures," Winkenwerder said.