American Forces Press Service

Anthrax Vaccine Safe, Effective, Health Chief Says


  By Jim Garamone
 American Forces Press Service

 WASHINGTON -- With almost a million shots given, the 
 anthrax immunization is proving to be one of the safest 
 vaccination program on record, said Dr. Sue Bailey, 
 assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.
 “The vaccine that we are administering to our troops for 
 protection against anthrax is effective and entirely safe,” 
 Bailey said during a Pentagon interview. 
 She said service members are experiencing few serious 
 adverse reactions from the shots. The most recent reports 
 show only 14 reactions were serious enough that the service 
 members had to be off work for 24 hours or more or 
 hospitalized, she said. “Those who had those kinds of 
 reactions have fully recovered,” she added. 
 As of June 16, 935,632 separate shots had been 
 administered. With 102 total reactions reported, including 
 the 14 serious reactions, this means only .01 percent of 
 the shots caused an adverse reaction. “This is a lower rate 
 of reaction than one gets with a [diptheria, pertussis, 
 tetanus] shot administered to children,” Bailey said.
 Bailey countered reports that the vaccine was somehow 
 tainted with a substance called squalene. Squalene is a 
 substance that appears naturally in everyone’s body, she 
 explained. “You also find it in a lot of beauty products 
 and in some health food products,” she said. “But, squalene 
 has never been used in the anthrax immunization vaccine 
 production, and it is not now present.”
 Following the reports, DoD contracted with a civilian 
 laboratory that tested the vaccine for squalene and “found 
 there is no squalene in the anthrax vaccine we are using,” 
 she said.
 Bailey said the vaccine DoD uses is effective. “[Anthrax 
 is] so deadly, we don’t test humans,” she said. “We rely 
 upon non-human primate testing to give us the information 
 about the efficacy of the vaccine. And that shows it to be 
 very effective in protecting against anthrax.”
 The anthrax vaccine the department uses is licensed by the 
 Food and Drug Administration and has been since 1970, 
 Bailey said. The vaccine stocks have undergone DoD-mandated 
 supplemental testing performed by the manufacturer and 
 overseen by a private, independent firm.
 Since 1970, there have been no reports of long-term adverse 
 health effects from the anthrax vaccine. Howerver, DoD 
 continues to study the vaccine. “We have a study underway 
 at the U.S. Army Medical Insitute of Infectious Diseases to 
 determine whether individuals who received multiple 
 vaccines, including anthrax, demonstrate any adverse health 
 effects over the long term,” Bailey said. DoD has another 
 study underway at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. A 
 total of 570 medical workers who have received the series 
 are being studied so DoD can get “on-going information that 
 we can project into the future about effects of the anthrax 
 The anthrax vaccination program is a series of six shots 
 stretching over 18 months. DoD started immunizing service 
 members most in danger from anthrax -- those in or going to 
 Southwest Asia. In May 1998, Defense Secretary William S. 
 Cohen approved a plan to inoculate all service members 
 against the disease.
 “Anthrax is a deadly bacteria,” Bailey said. “If you were 
 exposed to weaponized anthrax spores and were not 
 immunized, you would develop symptoms and die. Antibiotics 
 alone cannot save you once you display the symptoms. We 
 feel it is our responsibility to provide for the best 
 protection … and we do so through the immunization