Anthrax Vaccination Program

On May 18, 1998, Secretary of Defense William Cohen approved a plan to vaccinate all U.S. service members for anthrax.This plan has caused a fierce ethical debate over the legitimacy of this vaccination.The Department of Defense claims the vaccination is completely safe and has been in use for decades.Some doctors dispute this claim, and contend the vaccination may not be effective against weapon versions of anthrax.Many service members have refused the vaccination and have either separated or faced formal punishment for their decision.
The Bioport Corporation of Lansing Michigan is the only company that produces the anthrax vaccine.According to a Phoenix Times article, the original Bioport plant had to be demolished due to quality control problems.A new plant was built, but it also failed FDA inspections in December of 1999.Subsequently, the process of administering the vaccination to all service members has been suspended.The vaccination is currently administered only to personnel deploying to "high threat" areas of the world. The Joint Staff has designated Korea, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen, and Israel as high-threat areas.The immunization is administered in a series of six shots over an eighteen-month period, with annual boosters.The following analysis will contain a brief discussion about both sides of this issue.
To understand why the Department of Defense feels it is essential to take such precautions, it isfirst necessary to have some understanding of what anthrax is.Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia defines anthrax as "a contagious disease of warm-blooded animals, including humans, caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis."There are three types of anthrax diseases.Thefirst is cutaneous anthrax, which is caused by contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products.The second type is gastrointesti…

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