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Anthrax immunization program changes

http://www.hilltoptimes.com/story.asp?edition=287&storyid=7717

by Lt. Col. Brad S Winterton
75th Aerospace Medicine Squadron

Base leaders and medical personnel have received new guidance about changes to the Department of Defense Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program.

Under the AVIP changes, immunization is mandatory for personnel (servicemembers, emergency-essential civilians, and contractors performing emergency-essential duties) assigned to either Central Command or the Korean Peninsula for 15 or more consecutive days.

“We’ve been expecting this for several weeks now,” said Col. James Weissmann, 75th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander. “We knew AVIP changes were coming, but we didn’t know the details until late last week.”

Under current AVIP guidance, in place since January 2005, anthrax immunization has been available only to those tasked for deployment to either the Central Command area of responsibility or the Korean Peninsula—and immunization was voluntary.

Basically, those who were part of the voluntary program for the past two years are now included in the mandatory program. In addition, AVIP has a new voluntary portion.

Servicemembers not in the mandatory group, who have received one or more anthrax shots since Jan. 1, 1998, may continue the shot schedule on a voluntary basis. Adult family members accompanying personnel assigned to Central Command or the Korean Peninsula may also receive the vaccine on a voluntary basis. The anthrax vaccine dosage schedule has not changed. There is still a three shot primary series each separated by two weeks, followed by a three shot secondary series each separated by six months, and then an annual booster. Whether part of the mandatory group or the voluntary group, personnel receiving anthrax shots will pick up from their most recent documented shot and continue from there—no one will start over.

Base officials are assembling a team of experts to implement the new AVIP policies, led by Lt. Col. Patrick Weller, 388 FW director of staff. Priority will be given to those remaining AEF 5/6 deployers who have not yet departed and to AEF 7/8 and 9/10 tasked members who leave in the next 60 to 90 days.

A key part of the new plan is education of all personnel by their unit commanders. Medical experts will educate the commanders who will then educate their Airmen. For further information, visit www.anthrax.mil and www.vaccines.mil.

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