Pentagon Repeats: Anthrax Vaccine is Safe


  By Linda D. Kozaryn
 American Forces Press Service
 22 January 1999 

 WASHINGTON - Pentagon officials insist the mandatory 
 anthrax vaccine has proven to be safe.
 "It's safe and reliable," Pentagon Spokesman Ken Bacon 
 said. "It works and has no side effects." 
 Reporters queried Bacon about the vaccine Jan. 21 during a 
 Pentagon briefing after eight pilots from Connecticut's Air 
 National Guard 103rd Fighter Wing said they planned to 
 resign rather than take the six-shot series. The unit, 
 which flies A-10 Thunderbolts, is scheduled to deploy to 
 the Gulf later this year. 
 The anthrax vaccine is mandatory for all service members, 
 active duty and reserve, but priority is being given to 
 people going to Southwest Asia and Korea, Bacon explained. 
 "After that, people who are likely to deploy to these or 
 other hot spots are in line to get the shots," he said.
 Bacon reported that during exit interviews, six of the 
 eight Connecticut pilots said anthrax was only one of many 
 factors that entered into their decision to resign. "Some 
 may have found that the pressures of staying in the air 
 guard and training were hard to balance with their family 
 or business lives," he said. "Some may not have wanted to 
 deploy to the Gulf for personal reasons." 
 As of Jan. 12, Bacon said, 166,233 service members have 
 received 463,226 shots. This includes the Defense 
 Department's top civilian and military leaders, he added. 
 "All of these people are fine," Bacon said. 
 Anthrax shots are "a very safe and very important force 
 protection measure" aimed at protecting people from the 
 risks they could face on the battlefield, Bacon said. 
 "Biological warfare is one of the emerging threats we 
 The vaccine was certified by the Food and Drug 
 Administration certified the vaccine in 1970. Since then, 
 veterinarians, laboratory workers and livestock handlers 
 have used the vaccine, Bacon said.
 Every vaccine poses some risks, however, Bacon noted.  
 "There have been some reactions to the vaccine. The 
 reactions tend to be extremely minor - a little redness on 
 the arm, for instance. A serious reaction is one that might 
 involve a slightly elevated fever."
 This has generally been an extremely successful program," 
 Bacon said. "I think soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines 
 understand this is for their own protection. We have found 
 that almost all willingly take these shots."
 For more information on the anthrax immunization program, 
 go to the DoD web site "Countering the Anthrax Threat" at