The Department of Defense announced today a resumption of the mandatory Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program (AVIP) for military personnel, emergency-essential DoD civilians and contractors, based on defined geographic areas or roles.
For the most part, mandatory vaccinations are limited to military units designated for homeland bioterrorism defense and to U.S. forces assigned to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and Korea.
The under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness will issue implementing instructions to the military services for resuming the mandatory vaccination program within 30 to 60 days.
"The anthrax vaccine will protect our troops from another threat--a disease that will kill, caused by a bacteria that already has been used as a weapon in America, and that terrorists openly discuss,” said Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.
The policy also allows personnel previously immunized against anthrax, who are no longer deployed to higher threat areas, to receive follow-up vaccine doses and booster shots on a voluntary basis
Under the voluntary vaccination policy, implemented during the period of a court injunction throughout 2005, the voluntary acceptance rate was about 50 percent.
“This rate of vaccination not only put the service members at risk, but also jeopardized unit effectiveness and degraded medical readiness. The threat environment and the unpredictable nature of terrorism make it necessary to include biological warfare defense as part of our force protection measures,” Winkenwerder said.
Anthrax is a deadly infection, and the anthrax vaccine is an important force protection measure to combat it. In the fall of 2001, 22 cases of anthrax resulted from attacks with anthrax spores through the U.S. postal system. Five people died in these attacks.
The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly found, and independent medical experts have confirmed, that anthrax vaccine is safe and effective.
For more information on the anthrax vaccination program visit http://www.vaccines.mil/