Pentagon to launch new anthrax vaccination program

The Defense Department expects to announce details of a new anthrax vaccination plan for soldiers within the next month, the department said Thursday.

"We've undergone a very thorough process over the last several weeks looking at options and have discussed those with people both on the military medical side as well as the nonmedical side (and) civilian leadership, and we will soon be making some announcements," Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs Bill Winkenwerder said.

Pentagon medical officers have requested that the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board and the Institute of Medicine conduct studies on the safety of the anthrax vaccine, which received Food and Drug Administration approval in January. The results of those studies are expected soon, Winkenwerder said.

Defense officials are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on studies to examine new ways to administer the anthrax vaccine, according to the Pentagon.

Pentagon officials want to determine whether the vaccine can be administered in a shorter time period and with fewer inoculations than currently prescribed, according to Randy Rudolph, director of the Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program Agency. The vaccine is currently administered in a series of six shots given over 18 months.

Defense also said it would also like to be able reduce the number of inoculation-site reactions. About 30 percent of men and 60 percent of women who are given the vaccine report a minor reaction, of about less than an inch in size, at the inoculation site, Rudolph said. He added that more serious reactions are rare.

The reactions are not harmful but it is still worth attempting to reduce their number, Rudolph said.

"No one likes swelling, and no one likes pain and redness," he said.

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