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Anthrax Inoculations: A Shot in the Arm

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 1998 – American service members in Korea are rolling up their sleeves now for protection against anthrax, a disease that kills within days when inhaled.

"They got off to a terrific start," Rear Adm. Michael Cowan said of U.S. Forces Korea's shot program. Cowan directs medical readiness programs on the Joint Staff. He said stockpiles of the vaccine were shipped to bases throughout Korea so anyone there or arriving has started the 18-month- long, six-shot inoculation series.

The Korea command had conducted a dry run to make sure it could successfully reach all its every service members, he said. In its next phase, service members on orders to the peninsula will receive their initial shots before reporting to their new assignments.

DoD made vaccinations mandatory for service members because of the threat posed by anthrax, an easy biological agent to use as a weapon. A five-pound-size flour bag could hold enough anthrax spores to wipe out a medium-sized city, Defense Secretary William Cohen and other department officials have said.

Service members bound for Southwest Asia began receiving the shots last May following a mandate from President Clinton for a comprehensive force health protection program. DoD stepped up the program in late August when it began inoculating service members in Korea.

"Over the course of time, as the stockpiles build up, we'll inoculate people as they come into the military," Cowan said. He estimated DoD will spend about $130 million to vaccinate the entire force. This includes associated costs for transportation, storage and administration of the program. Annual booster vaccinations for all service members will become a routine part of force health protection.

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