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DOD approves plans for anthrax vaccinations for troops on Korean peninsula, CENTCOM

DOD approves plans for anthrax vaccinations for troops on Korean peninsula, CENTCOM
By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes

The Pentagon’s top health official has approved each service’s plans to resume mandatory anthrax vaccinations for troops on the Korean peninsula and in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations, said Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith.

It is now up to each service to determine when to resume the mandatory anthrax program, Smith said Thursday.

Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs approved the plans Feb. 8, officials said Thursday.

The vaccinations had been given on a voluntary basis since January 2005, but only about half of U.S. troops opted to get the shots, prompting the Defense Department to announce in 2006 that they would be mandatory for troops deemed most at risk.

But Washington, D.C., lawyer Mark Zaid has vowed to take legal action to prevent the Defense Department from resuming mandatory shots.

Zaid, who represents six Defense Department employees who refused to take the vaccine, plans to file a temporary restraining order in the next two to three weeks, if not sooner, he said in a Thursday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

Smith declined to say how such a move would affect the Defense Department’s plans to make anthrax vaccinations for some troops mandatory again.

“We aren’t going to comment on litigation that hasn’t even been filed,” she said in a Thursday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

Meanwhile, the Air Force plans to resume its mandatory anthrax vaccination program for some airmen in about three weeks, said Air Force spokeswoman Brenda Campbell on Thursday.

The Air Force has sent its implantation plans to all major commands so that each unit can prepare to vaccinate airmen who rotate to the Korean peninsula and the CENTCOM area of operations, Campbell said.

Army Col. Randall Anderson, director of the Military Vaccine Agency did not give a time line of when soldiers would begin receiving mandatory anthrax vaccinations, saying units and clinics were working to meet each service’s plans for mandatory anthrax vaccinations.

“The resumption of the mandatory vaccines will begin when the requirements of each plan are completed by a unit or clinic, mandatory vaccinations for those covered by the policy may begin,” Anderson said in an e-mailed response to questions Thursday. “It could have begun in some places.”

The Navy could not be reached for comment by deadline on when sailors and Marines will start receiving mandatory anthrax vaccinations.