The Department of Defense (DoD) announced today that it is temporarily slowing its Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program (AVIP) effort. Most of the remaining vaccine will be used to help protect those most at risk serving in the High Threat Areas of Southwest Asia and Korea. DoD will continue new starts for the highest risk personnel serving in the High Threat Areas; other new starts will be deferred. We plan to defer for those personnel who have begun the shot series, but have since departed the High Threat Areas. A full resumption of the vaccination effort will occur when a sufficient supply of FDA-approved and certified safe and effective vaccine is available.
"While we regret this necessity, we do not have a sufficient supply of vaccine at this time," said Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen. "We will expand our vaccination effort as soon as logistically feasible, with FDA-certified vaccine. In making the decision to protect our servicemembers against anthrax, we put safety first. We determined that vaccination is the safest, most reliable way to protect our servicemembers from a potential threat that is 99 percent lethal to unprotected, untreated individuals. Anthrax remains the top biological warfare threat to U.S. troops, and the vaccine is our safest, most effective weapon to protect our people against that threat."
When FDA-released vaccine is again available, the full scope of the program will be resumed. Precise plans for resuming vaccinations will be based on the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and consultation with the Food and Drug Administration.
"Additionally, we need to assure a sufficient, long-term supply of vaccine. Protecting our servicemembers is far too important for us to rely on a single source. We are immediately and aggressively seeking a second U.S. source of anthrax vaccine," said Secretary Cohen. "By having a second source, we can have greater confidence and comfort that a sufficient supply of safe and effective vaccine will be available to protect our servicemembers against anthrax." A request for a second supplier was published in the July 3rd Commerce Business Daily.
More than 455,000 service members have started their vaccinations and more than 1.8 million vaccinations have been given. To be fully protected, servicemembers are vaccinated using the FDA-approved protocol of six immunizations over an 18-month period, plus annual boosters.