Tags: Pentagon | Suspends | Anthrax | Shots

Pentagon Suspends Anthrax Shots

Thursday, 30 November 2000 12:00 AM

Now only those soldiers deploying to areas around Iraq for more than 30 days will receive the controversial inoculation. The move saves about 12,500 doses of anthrax vaccine a month, which will help stretch the remaining supply over the next year, according to Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon.

There are only about 60,000 approved doses left, according to Bacon – just enough to vaccinate the 5,000 service members who deploy to southwest Asia.

Only one company in the nation, BioPort of Lansing, Mich., produces the vaccine. But its new laboratory – built with taxpayer money via the Defense Department – has failed repeatedly to win Food and Drug Administration approval. In November 1999 the FDA found more than 30 shortcomings at the production facility.

"We had hoped they'd be up and running by about this time," Bacon said at a Pentagon news conference.

Bacon said BioPort could be approved by next fall or winter. In the meantime, the Pentagon is taking measures to conserve what doses it has left, reserving them for the area believed to pose the most threat of biological weapons.

In April of this year, the Pentagon awarded the troubled manufacturer $12 million to help its new laboratory pass FDA inspection. That money came on top of the $40 million it gave BioPort to bail the company out of financial trouble last fall.

As of September, there were 100,000 doses of anthrax vaccine remaining. That number has dwindled to about 60,000. If used at a rate of 5,000 doses a month, the supply could be made to last another year.

This is not the first time the Pentagon has had to limit the program because of production delays. In July, Defense Secretary William Cohen limited the immunization only to those deploying to areas around Iraq and North Korea. Until then the immunization had been compulsory for all service members.

Almost half a million service members began the six-shot series. Bacon said it was unclear whether they would have to repeat the entire series once the vaccine becomes available.

Roughly 350 service members have refused to take the shot because of health concerns. Many of them have been discharged from the military.

In February, the Pentagon rejected a call from the House Governmental Affairs subcommittee on national security to suspend its mandatory anthrax immunization program. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., subcommittee chairman, had released a report calling for the program to be halted until the effects of the vaccine are more closely studied.

About 10 countries, including Iraq and North Korea, are believed to have "weaponized" anthrax, and more are working on developing anthrax weapons. The anthrax spore is a stable one. It can be used as an aerosol and still maintain its lethality.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Now only those soldiers deploying to areas around Iraq for more than 30 days will receive the controversial inoculation. The move saves about 12,500 doses of anthrax vaccine a month, which will help stretch the remaining supply over the next year, according to Pentagon...
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2000-00-30
Thursday, 30 November 2000 12:00 AM
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