CDC scientists to survey military personnel on concerns about anthrax vaccine

Monday, January 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing to survey military personnel about the anthrax vaccine in hopes of learning how fears about its safety can be lessened.

The Pentagon began inoculating about 2.4 million troops against anthrax. But the program has been on hold since 1998, after just 500,000 personnel had received the vaccine, because of a shortage of supplies.

Some service personnel also have refused to take the injections because of fears of severe side effects.

Those long opposed to the military's anthrax vaccination program say the shots could be connected to complaints of chronic fatigue, bone and joint pain, memory loss and other problems. They also claim the military has not done enough to investigate the vaccine's long-term effects or whether it can be given safely with other vaccine.

The vaccine's only manufacturer, Lansing, Mich.-based BioPort Corp., insists the vaccine is safe. The Pentagon says severe side effects occur only about once per 200,000 doses.

The CDC's nationally representative survey aims to determine what percentage of troops have concerns about the vaccine, and identify the details of those concerns as well as what could help alleviate them, according to a presentation Monday by CDC scientist Deborah Gust to an Institute of Medicine panel.

The Institute of Medicine committee is advising the CDC on its research into whether the military vaccination program can use fewer doses, thereby reducing side effects, and still work. Military personnel now receive six shots over 18 months.

The study will involve two surveys about two years apart, conducted with about 16,000 military personnel, both active and reserve, on 36 bases, Gust said.

The Sept. 11 attacks and the anthrax outbreak afterward set the study schedule back about six months, with the last survey now slated for November 2005, she said.