DATE=5/17/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=ANTHRAX (L) NUMBER=2-262484 BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=PENTAGON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Defense Secretary William Cohen says the U-S Military will continue vaccinating troops against the deadly anthrax virus -- even though dozens of members of Congress are demanding a halt to the controversial program. V-O-A's Jim Randle reports, hundreds of troops have refused to take the vaccine because of questions about its safety and effectiveness. TEXT: Congressman Jack Metcalf (a Republican from Washington State) and nearly three dozen other lawmakers have written to the Pentagon asking for an immediate halt to the vaccination program. At least three hundred troops have resigned from the military, been thrown out, or face other punishments because of their refusal to take than take the vaccine. Some service members say the vaccine is not designed to handle the form of anthrax they are most likely to encounter on the battlefield. Others fear the mysterious illness plaguing veterans of the Gulf War might be linked to vaccines taken during the 1991 conflict. /// OPT /// The medical facility that manufactures the vaccine has had a series of technical problems. The military has been forced to provide financial help to the ailing facility and a scientific panel has complained about a lack of studies on the vaccine's long term effects. /// END OPT /// But Defense Secretary Cohen says the anthrax vaccine has been used for decades and has been approved by medical officials. To demonstrate their faith in procedure, he and the U- S Military's top officer rolled up their sleeves and took the series of shots needed to administer the vaccine. /// COHEN ACT /// The vaccine that is currently being used is safe. And that is the reason that the Chairman (of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) and myself were the first two in line to receive our six shots. We were not prepared to tell our troops that they had to undergo any kind of vaccination program unless we were willing to do the same. /// END ACT /// Pentagon officials say they have vaccinated hundreds of thousands of troops and will continue administering inoculations until all two point four million active and reserve members of the U-S Military are protected against the germ weapon. Scientists say anthrax is the easiest of all diseases to turn into an effective weapon because its dust-like spores can be easily spread and inhaled by victims. These spores can be packed into artillery shells or sprayed from airplanes. Experts say ten nations -- including Iraq and North Korea -- may have such germ warfare programs. (Signed). NEB/JR/KBK 17-May-2000 14:48 PM EDT (17-May-2000 1848 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .