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News | March 15, 2007

Military to resume mandatory Anthrax vaccination program

By Staff Sgt. Rachel Albano 3rd Aerospace Medical Squadron

On Oct. 12, 2006, the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs ordered the resumption of mandatory anthrax vaccinations for designated military personnel, emergency-essential civilians and mission-essential contract employees.

This order applies to personnel performing essential services while assigned or TDY to the Republic of Korea or USCENTCOM for 15 days or greater.

Once members leave the area of responsibility, they may opt to continue the vaccination on a voluntary basis, as long as they remain members of the armed forces or maintain civilian employee status covered by the Anthrax Vaccination Immunization Program.

Members who have previously started the vaccination may continue voluntary completion of the six-shot AVIP series and annual boosters. This policy will take effect for Elmendorf members Monday.

The health, safety and readiness of Elmendorf members supporting the mission is the number one concern.

The vaccine serves as a way to ensure troops are protected and ready to fight and is the first line of defense, offering a 24/7 layer of protection, in addition to antibiotics and other measures, in our fight against anthrax exposure.

If members have previously started the anthrax series, they will begin the vaccination in the sequence of their last vaccination at 0, 2, 4 weeks, 6, 12 and 18 months and annual boosters to sustain immunity.

The vaccine is safe and effective, and has been licensed since 1970. It has been tested repeatedly and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and the Institute for Medicine.

The anthrax vaccination has been used for more than 35 years in livestock and agriculture workers, with no significant reported ill effects.

The anthrax threat is very real. It is currently the top threat for use as a biological warfare agent.

Several potential adversaries have worked to develop an offensive biological warfare capability using anthrax, and anthrax has already been used as a biological weapon in the United States that cost several people their lives.

It's an Air Force goal to not lose any Airmen to biological weapons that we can vaccinate and protect our forces against.

For more information concerning the Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program, visit www.anthrax.mil and www.vaccines.mil or call the Immunization Clinic at 580-5812.