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98213. DoD Anthrax Vaccination Program Proceeds Well

By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

	WASHINGTON -- With more than 25,000 service members started in 

the anthrax vaccination program in the Persian Gulf region, officials 

said it is going well, and troops are getting all the facts.

	DoD is learning from the accelerated vaccination program designed 

to protect military and civilian personnel from biological attack. 

Officials acknowledge their assessment doesn't mean everything worked 

perfectly. They said they are adjusting procedures before expanding 

the program throughout DoD. 

	The main lesson learned, one official said, was the need for 

"clean, factual communication. Service members have to feel confident 

about the reliability of the program."

	Officials said some service members got all sorts of information 

-- some incorrect --  from external sources such as the Internet and 

e-mail. They said an improved DoD Health Affairs web site makes 

anthrax information easier to access. Service members can access the 

site at The site can also be reached through under "other information."

	Health Affairs officials have asked commands to make anthrax 

information more visible on their web sites. "[E-mail and the web] are 

very powerful tools that we can use to our advantage to educate and 

inform our troops," said Army Maj. Gen. Robert Claypool, deputy 

assistant secretary of defense for health operations policy.

	Officials were particularly pleased with the cooperation between 

the medical and line communities. "Commanders see anthrax as a 

operational issue," an official said. "As a result, [troop commanders] 

got intimately involved with disseminating information to their 


	Claypool said commanders enthusiastically support the program 

because they consider inoculation a force protection issue, not just a 

medical one. "In many cases, they were the first ones in line to get 

the shots," Claypool said. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton set 

the example when they started the shot series March 2. The secretary 

and chairman have now received their third shots.

	When Cohen announced the initiative in December, he insisted 

service members receive all pertinent information before being 

inoculated. The process used by all services is for medical personnel 

to brief units on the inoculations then to provide individual 

counseling for those who desire it. Service members who still have 

questions get additional opportunities to talk to medical 

professionals, Claypool said.

	Each of the services is handling anthrax vaccinations somewhat 

differently, but all are handling them well, officials said. One 

concern is tracking -- especially of service members who go in and out 

of the area of operations. "We believe we have a handle on this," an 

official said. "But this is something we are going to have to keep an 

eye on."

	The anthrax vaccination consists of a series of six shots over an 

18-month period. Protection increases with each shot. Officials 

stressed the inoculation is safe. Only two patients developed 

reactions that may have been related to the injection: one had a fever 

and muscle aches, while another developed a skin rash. Providers 

prudently withheld further injections of those individuals pending 

clinical evaluations. The most common reaction has been minor knotting 

in the arm muscle where the shot was received.

	DoD officials confirmed some service members in the region have 

refused to get the shots, but the number is small. The services are 

taking appropriate administrative action against those who have 

refused direct orders to participate in the mandatory immunization 


	Officials said service members will get more time to digest the 

information about the program before its scheduled expansion later 

this year. They said the experiences in the gulf will allow them to 

increase the effectiveness of the vaccination education program.

	"If you're 20 miles from the Iraqi border, you don't have as much 

trouble to convince people to get the shots," Claypool said.