Tags: DOD: | Biowar | Protection | Will | Cost | $3.2B

DOD: Biowar Protection Will Cost $3.2B

Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM

The Defense Department determined it needs not only a new anthrax vaccine but at least 13 other new vaccines, including serum for small pox, next-generation anthrax, the plague, three varieties of equine encephalitis, coxiella burnetii, Tularemia, botulinum toxin, staphlococcyl enterotoxin b, ricin and brucella, the report said.

The department also needs vaccines to protect deployed soldiers against diseases local to their area of operations - malaria, dengue fever, HIV, hepatitis E and shigellosis.

The report is significant in the light of revelations that a suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington had inquired about crop dusters in Florida, sparking fears the planes could be used to spread biological or chemical agents. Subsequently, the government grounded the nation's privately owned fleet of crop dusters.

The Defense Department has long been aware that biological weapons pose a special threat to its forces. The diseases that can be "weaponized" - such as anthrax or small pox - take up to eight days to incubate, so infected soldiers show no serious symptoms until well after the exposure. In the case of small pox, infected soldiers would be contagious to others well before anyone knew they were sick.

An independent panel of experts told the Defense Department in November 2000 that it will cost $370 million to build a new vaccine production facility able to manufacturer eight different inoculations. It will cost an additional $300 million a year to operate, and it will take as long as 12 years to develop the vaccines. The Defense Department set aside funding in its 2001 budget earmarked for the construction of such a facility, which would be government owned but operated by private contractors.

Developing and producing 15 new vaccines, if only for military personnel, is an ambitious project by any estimation: It would nearly double the number of vaccines available in the world. Just 20 vaccines are commercially available. Merck Pharmaceuticals, the largest private producer, manufacturers nine of them.

The Pentagon began requiring vaccinations against anthrax for all military service members three years ago but has repeatedly slowed the controversial program because of waning supplies. There is still no FDA-approved manufacturer of anthrax vaccine in the United States. The military has been drawing on old supplies produced by a now-defunct Michigan state-owned laboratory.

About 500,000 of the 2.4 million active duty and reserve military personnel have begun the required six-shot course of anthrax vaccine. Deployed soldiers also regularly receive the following vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Cholera, Japanese encephalitis, Typhoid, Yellow Fever and influenza. Military personnel also receive vaccines against Meningococcus and Adenovirus when they enter basic training.

In the Sept. 11 attacks, the FBI said, some 19 men, all with Muslim names, hijacked four U.S. commercial jetliners. Two were guided into the twin towers of the World Trade Center; a third smashed into the Pentagon and the fourth went down in rural Pennsylvania. Some 6,000 people are feared to have died in the attacks.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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The Defense Department determined it needs not only a new anthrax vaccine but at least 13 other new vaccines, including serum for small pox, next-generation anthrax, the plague, three varieties of equine encephalitis, coxiella burnetii, Tularemia, botulinum toxin,...
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2001-00-24
Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM
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