DoD Stops Anthrax Shots for Troops in Korea
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2000 Dwindling anthrax vaccine supplies are forcing DoD to further curb its plan to vaccinate all service members against the disease.
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said in a Nov. 30 DoD press briefing that, effective immediately, service members in or going to Korea will not be vaccinated. Remaining stocks of the vaccine will be reserved for those heading to Southwest Asia, he added.
“We want to conserve our supplies and still protect people going to the highest threat areas,” Bacon said. “We know the Iraqis produced anthrax. We know they weaponized anthrax. We believe (anthrax) is a clear and present threat in Southwest Asia.”
He called the continuation of the program in that region prudent “given the fact that Saddam Hussein has used chemical weapons in the past against Iran and against his own Kurdish minority.”
The only manufacturer of the anthrax vaccine, Bioport Corp. of Michigan, has been unable to get Food and Drug Administration approval since shutting down for an overhaul in 1998. DoD has been vaccinating service members from previously produced FDA-approved stockpiles.
DoD officials said the revised guidelines will conserve about 12,500 doses of vaccine a month. Approximately 5,000 doses a month are administered to service members in Southwest Asia. Bacon said officials expect the current stocks to last until November 2001 “without tapping into reserves we want to maintain.”
He also said DoD expects Bioport to resume production of FDA-approved vaccine by summer or fall 2001 and added DoD is “making some progress with an alternate source” of the vaccine.
Bacon noted this latest curtailment was planned in case Bioport was unable to resume production by now. He called it temporary “pending production of new supplies of FDA- approved vaccine.”
DoD is not backing off its plan to eventually vaccinate all service members against the deadly biological agent, Bacon stressed. “We continue to believe this vaccine is the best protection against a biological threat that is 99 percent lethal,” he said.