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Text of Statement on Anthrax Vaccinations
By Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen , No location specified, Monday, July 10, 2000

Today, I want to talk to you about two important issues: force protection and safety.

In 1997, I accepted the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs to require vaccination of all U.S. military personnel against anthrax, a deadly biological agent which is almost always lethal to unprotected, untreated victims. For the past two years, the department has been vaccinating those of you deploying to Southwest Asia and Korea, the two most likely regions where anthrax could be used against you.

To date, we have provided more than 1.8 million safe and reliable vaccinations using a vaccine certified by the Food and Drug Administration, with a 30-year history of safe and effective use, every dose meeting the highest quality and safety standards and backed by additional testing. And I would point out that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General [Henry] Shelton, and I were among the very first to receive this vaccine.

When we began this program, we had a stockpile of vaccine. The one facility that produced the vaccine has since been taken over and replaced by a new company which has yet to receive FDA approval to begin operations at a new facility. During this time, we have been conducting vaccinations from our original stockpile. Unfortunately, we're beginning to run low on tested and certified doses from that stockpile, forcing us to temporarily slow our vaccination efforts.

I want to explain how this may affect you. We will make every effort to continue vaccinating those of you who are serving, or are about to serve, in high-threat areas. Of course, the rest of our force health protection package, such as detectors in the field and full supplies of antibiotics, are going to remain in place while we await more vaccine. And as soon as a sufficient and safe supply of vaccine is available, we will expand the program, ultimately vaccinating all members of the active and reserve force.

We deeply appreciate the tremendous efforts of those who have made the anthrax vaccine program a success to date, especially those of you already receiving vaccinations.

We put safety first when we started this program two years ago. I'm putting safety first again today. We will put safety first when we expand the program after we have assured ourselves a supply from a new FDA-certified facility. Our highest priority has always been and always will remain to protect those of you who are protecting America.