- WASHINGTON (AP) -- With an increased possibility of germ warfare, Defense Secretary
William Cohen has decided America's 1.5 million men and women in uniform
should be inoculated against anthrax.
- The biological agent can be fatal even
in microscopic amounts.
- The inoculations, which involve six shots
taken over 18 months, will cost about $120 million, senior Pentagon officials
said Monday speaking on condition of anonymity.
- The Pentagon planned to make the announcement
later in the day.
- The concern is for protecting U.S. forces
amid a mounting threat of biological or chemical warfare against troops
at home or overseas.
- The move comes amid the confrontation
with Iraq's Saddam Hussein and the United Nations' efforts to uncover his
weapons of mass destruction.
- Terrorist bombings aimed at U.S. troops
in Saudi Arabia, controversy over a possible Persian Gulf War syndrome
and fears that enemies such as Iraq and North Korea might use biological
weapons prompted the Pentagon initiative, officials said.
- While inoculations for people in uniform
are mandatory, there will be exemptions for some, such as pregnant women,
for whom the anthrax inoculation could be dangerous.
- The decision had been made informally
last year but was delayed over concerns about whether a proper procedure
could be set up to monitor those who are inoculated, said one official.
- The inoculation program has been controversial
given concerns about the mysteries of the Persian Gulf War Syndrome and
whether inoculations given during the war contributed to some veterans'
- About 150,000 of the more than 500,000
U.S. troops in the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991 were given anthrax vaccinations.
- No link has been established with Gulf
War illnesses. The vaccine is licensed by the Food and Drug Administration
and has been in use since 1970.
- Anthrax, an infectious disease that normally
afflicts animals, especially cattle and sheep, is considered the most lethal
of biological agents by the U.S. government.
- Anthrax spores are stable and remain
viable in water and soil for years. Of greater importance to the Pentagon,
anthrax can easily be put into a dry powder form that can be stored as
a weapon for long periods. Inhaling even microscopic amounts can be fatal.
The inoculation provides effective protection.
- Iraq, Russia and as many as 10 other
countries are believed to have the capability to use anthrax in weapons.
- By SUSANNE M. SCHAFER,
The Associated Press
- Copyright © 1997 Nando.net