USIS Washington 

03 March 1998


(Vaccination plan accelerated for military protection) (680)

Washington -- Defense Secretary Cohen March 3 revealed plans to begin
later this month inoculating U.S. soldiers deployed to the Gulf region
against anthrax -- a lethal biological agent which Iraqi leader Saddam
Hussein has used in the past against his own people and Iran.

"After a careful review, I have concluded that vaccination against
anthrax is a safe, prudent force protection measure," Cohen said in
announcing the expedited plan. The vaccination is mandatory for U.S.

Originally a military-wide vaccination program was set to begin this
summer. However, U.S. Central Command's General Anthony Zinni asked in
February to have his troops vaccinated as soon as possible, according
to Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon.

The United States also will work with its allies operating in the
region to help meet their medical requirements. The United Kingdom
announced plans on March 3 to vaccinate its troops in the Gulf. Canada
had earlier announced plans to vaccinate its forces in the region.

Following is the text of the Pentagon's announcement:

(begin text)

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen announced today his decision to
vaccinate U.S. military personnel deployed to the Arabian Gulf region
against the biological warfare agent anthrax. This action was
requested by General Anthony Zinni, commander in chief, U.S. Central
Command, and recommended by General Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, as one of a number of force protection measures
for troops in the Gulf region. The vaccinations are expected to begin
this month.

When the military-wide anthrax immunization plan was first announced
last December, Cohen specified that four conditions be met before
vaccinations would begin. Work on each of these items for use by the
U.S. Central Command is complete. The conditions are:

-- Supplemental testing, consistent with Food and Drug Administration
standards (FDA), to assure sterility, safety, potency and purity of
the vaccine.

-- Implementation of a system to fully track personnel who receive the
anthrax vaccinations.

-- Approval of appropriate operational plans to administer the
immunizations and communications plans to inform military personnel of
the overall program.

-- Review of health and medical issues of the program by an
independent expert.

Immunization for our troops is a prudent action. The immunization
program will consist of a series of six inoculations per service
member over an 18-month period, followed by an annual booster.
Although protection levels increase as shots in the series are given,
the entire six-shot series is required for full protection, as
determined by the FDA.

"After a careful review, I have concluded that vaccination against
anthrax is a safe, prudent force protection measure," Cohen said. He
and General Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
have both started the anthrax vaccination program with their first

As an additional force protection measure, anthrax exposure can be
treated with antibiotics before symptoms occur. Antibiotics are in
place with forces in the region in sufficient quantities.

Force health protection measures include education, health risk
assessment, and joint medical surveillance. Nuclear, chemical and
biological (NBC) defense is achieved through the detection equipment,
protective apparel, and post-exposure medical treatment procedures
already in place in the Gulf. The United States has deployed to the
Gulf the Biological Integrated Detection System (BIDS); the Air
Base/Port Biological Detection ("Portal Shield"); and The Interim
Biological Agent Detector (IBAD). Additionally, every service member
deploys with a full ensemble of NBC protective equipment.

United States forces in the Gulf operate with forces from a number of
other countries. While it is the responsibility of each of these
countries to determine how they will protect their forces against
chemical and biological threats, we will be working with allies and
coalition nations as they seek to meet their medical needs.

The United Kingdom is also announcing its own vaccination programs
today. Canada has already announced its intention to vaccinate its
forces in the Gulf Region.

(end text)