The anthrax vaccine, used to combat bio-warfare, is to be restarted with a mandatory immunisation program for troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and South Korea, declared the Pentagon on Monday. However it is not planning to do the same for troops serving in other places including the US.
The assistant secretary of defense for health services, Dr. William Winkenwerder, says that this is because the danger of infection is considered higher in those areas and that the Pentagon is prepared to deal with any court challenge ensuing from this order.
He says that the protection is important because anthrax spores are highly poisonous and were the cause of death of five people in 2001.As many as 22 cases of anthrax resulted from this form of bio- terrorism, when the spores were sent through the post.
Only 50% of the troops opted for the vaccination when it was voluntary. The Department of defense plans to restart the compulsory immunisation within a couple of months, as it feels that the troops are increasingly vulnerable to the risk.
The order has been issued after the FDA has declared the vaccine to be safe and effective. However the attorneys who had filed the initial lawsuit against mandatory vaccination and had it halted, are determined to take the case further and file a suit challenging it. According to them, the order does not have a scientific basis and its legality remains in question.