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Anthrax shots to resume here

ANDREWS AFB, Md. -- The Andrews Air Force Base Immunization Clinic is scheduled to begin giving anthrax vaccinations Monday to service members and some civilians. 

In October 2006, the Deputy Secretary of Defense announced the Department of Defense would resume mandatory anthrax immunizations for military personnel, emergency-essential DoD civilian employees and certain contractor personnel based on their area of assignment or special mission role. 

The vaccination will be given to two groups of people, those who are in the mandatory group and the voluntary group. 

Currently, the policy is mandatory for individuals serving in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for 15 or more consecutive days and on the Korean peninsula for 15 or more consecutive days. This includes all servicemembers, emergency essential designated civilians, contractor personnel performing mission-essential services (with the provision in their contract), some naval forces afloat, and civilian and contract Mariners, under Commander, Military Sealift Command. 

The second group covered by this policy is those who may receive anthrax vaccinations voluntarily. Voluntary resumption or continuation of AVA immunization is permitted for servicemembers who received at least one previous dose of AVA during or since 1998. This is designed to allow individuals to continue the vaccinations on the shot schedule when they are no longer in the designated mandatory population. This group also includes 18 to 65 years of age adult family members of service members and U.S. contractor personnel that are accompanying their family for more than 15 consecutive days to the USCENTCOM AOR or Korea. 

Service members who have received part of the six shot series since 1998 won't have to start over from the beginning, said the major. 

"They will simply resume where they left off," said Maj. Carl Thornblade, 79th Medical Operations Squadron Allergy-Asthma-Immunology chief. "For example, if someone has already received three doses of the vaccine, they will only need to receive doses four, five, and six which are to be given six months apart." 

"The vaccine has been proven safe and effective in multiple studies by civilian physicians and scientists," said Major Thornblade. "It has been approved for use by the (Food and Drug Administration) for the prevention of anthrax disease in all types of exposure, including inhalation anthrax, which would be the most likely exposure in a combat setting. 

"While any vaccine can have side effects," Major Thornblade continued. "The anthrax vaccine is considered as safe as any other vaccine. Each lot of vaccine released for use has met specifications for sterility, safety, purity, and potency that are approved by the FDA." 

Some side effects include up to 30 percent of men and 60 percent of women experiencing some temporary redness, swelling, and tenderness at the injection site. Others may experience itching and a small lump or nodule under the skin at the injection site that may last a few weeks. 

"We do not know why women experience these symptoms at a higher rate than men, although it has been seen with other vaccines such as influenza and pertussis vaccines," said Major Thornblade. "These symptoms are benign and usually resolve in several days. Again, these side effects are not serious and should not prevent someone from performing their daily duties. A smaller number of people will experience other symptoms such as muscle or joint aches, headaches, mild fever, chills, fatigue, larger swelling at the site, rashes, and related symptoms. These symptoms usually last a few days to less than a week." 

The staff of the immunization clinic is fully trained on the mandatory and voluntary aspects of the anthrax immunization program. They all have been trained extensively on the use of the anthrax vaccine, said Maj. Thornblade. 

Tri-fold brochures will be available prior to immunization. These brochures answer frequently asked questions, offer facts and have Web sites for additional information. Additionally, the immunizations clinic staff should be able to answer any questions that individuals may have. 

The anthrax immunizations will be given in the Allergy and Immunology Clinic which is located in building 1058 of Malcolm Grow Medical Center. The hours are Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 8 to 11 a.m. and 12:30 to 4 p.m. Thursdays, the clinic is open 9 to 11 a.m. and 12:30 to 4 p.m. 

For more information, log on to www.anthrax.mil.
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