Pentagon To Resume Forced Anthrax Vaccine Program

Reuters | Kristin Roberts | Oct 16 2006

   WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon on Monday said it will force troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea to be vaccinated against anthrax, restarting a court-halted program after U.S. regulators declared the shots safe and effective.

But William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said the Pentagon has no plans to vaccinate troops serving elsewhere, including those in the United States — site of the only major anthrax attack against Americans, which killed five people in 2001.

“There are terrorists operating in and around Iraq and in that part of the world,” Winkenwerder said. “That’s a higher threat area.”

The move to reopen the mandatory vaccination program follows a final order from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2005 that found the anthrax vaccine safe and effective in preventing anthrax disease.

But attorneys whose lawsuit previously shut down the mandatory anthrax vaccination program said they plan to file a new suit to challenge its resumption.

“The forthcoming mandatory program is just as senseless as before and the FDA’s new determination remains legally and scientifically flawed,” said Mark Zaid, one of the attorneys.

Winkenwerder, who has not taken the anthrax vaccine, said the FDA’s final order settles legal questions and the Pentagon is prepared for a court challenge.

Anthrax spores can be used in germ warfare to give victims the deadly bacterial disease. The Pentagon argues the shots are needed to protect troops against bioterrorism.   Continued…

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