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Pentagon to limit anthrax shots in face of vaccine shortage

graphic
 

July 10, 2000
Web posted at: 5:42 p.m. EDT (2142 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Facing a severe shortage of anthrax vaccine, the Pentagon has decided to limit inoculations to a small number of troops most at risk from the deadly biological agent.

"We have reached a point where we can't continue the program at its present pace," said Marine Maj. Gen. Randy West, a senior adviser to the deputy defense secretary on chemical and biological protection.

The shortage has been caused by a delay in getting a new manufacturer of the vaccine up and running. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration has not certified older doses of the vaccine as safe and effective.

 Anthrax:
A naturally occurring bacterium found in domesticated animals, anthrax can be produced as dry spores that, when inhaled, bring coma and death within a few days.

Spores of anthrax are colorless, odorless and tasteless. They can be released into the air in clouds that infect the lungs. Once contracted, anthrax is about 99 percent fatal.


  MESSAGE BOARD
 

This week the Pentagon learned that another 200,000 doses failed the FDA certification process because of "invalid" test results from live animal tests of the vaccine's potency.

That batch can be retested, but that will take another month, West said. "We won't use a single dose until we know that it's sterile, that it's pure, and that it's potent," he said.

West said the Pentagon now has only about 160,000 doses on hand that have been certified as safe and effective by the FDA. That is roughly about two months' supply at the current vaccination rate of about 75,000 shots a month.

"Because of a shortage of supply, we are going to have to slow down the program temporarily," West said. "We're not going to stop. We're not going to suspend. We are going to continue vaccinating personnel going into high threat areas to provide them the protection that they need."

The Pentagon could not say how many troops would receive vaccinations or booster shots under the revised, more limited program.

So far the Pentagon has given 1.8 million shots to some 455,000 active-duty and reserve troops since anthrax vaccinations began in 1998.

According to the Pentagon, 848 people have reported "adverse reactions" to the shots, and in 443 cases the reactions were judged to have been related to the vaccine.

Of those 433 cases, only 118 resulted in more than one day away from work, and only six required some form of hospitalization.

No new anthrax vaccine is currently being produced because the sole manufacturer of the vaccine, a laboratory once operated by the state of Michigan, was sold to a private company, which had financial problems, and has not yet been certified by the FDA.

Pentagon officials hope the new company, Bioport, will receive final FDA certification by next month and begin producing new batches of the vaccine by the end of the year.

So far, about 19 percent of the 2.4 million active-duty and reser ve troops have been given at least one of the series of anthrax vaccine shots that must be administered to achieve full protection against the disease.

CNN Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Pentagon to consider whether to suspend anthrax vaccinations
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Time.com: He's ready to take a bullet, but an anthrax shot?
March 15, 2000
Pentagon vows to continue anthrax vaccinations
February 17, 2000
Pentagon vows to continue anthrax vaccinations
February 17, 2000
Air Force officer faces court-martial for refusing anthrax shots
January 14, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Anthrax as Bio-War Agent; Treatment
Anthrax- General Information
The Official Department of Defense Anthrax Information Web Site
Tricare - The Military Immunization Information Source
NEHC Anthrax Vaccine Program Page
USMC Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program
USCG Anthrax Vaccine Program
World Anthrax Data Site


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