Peace Time: December 23, 1999

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Only 383,000 of the 2.4 million American service members have received all or part of the series of six shots necessary to vaccinate them against anthrax. (Those who have received the shots are serving in high threat areas such as the Persian Gulf and South Korea.) The program has been delayed by problems in obtaining a reliable supply of the vaccine. The US says it is positive that Iraq and some other countries have weaponized anthrax for use on the battlefield. Only one company, BioPort Corp of Lansing Michigan, makes the vaccine, and it has had production problems and cost overruns. The government agreed last August to pay more for each dose and to advance $18.7 million to BioPort to enable the company to pay its bills. The company is now asking for another $7-$10 million. The program, designed to immunize all service members by 2004, is already six months behind and will probably be delayed at least six more months. The GAO has complained that the Pentagon has failed to adequately keep track of who got the vaccinations, and who suffered health problems as a result. Several military personnel have been punished for refusing to take the shots. Some 22 people have been hospitalized after receiving the vaccine, but only six were directly related to the shots and all of these were allergic reactions which cleared up later. --Stephen V Cole

 


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