January 18, 2002
Pentagon Bars Pregnant Women From Taking Anthrax Vaccine
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jan. 17 (AP) The Pentagon may start asking women in the military to take
pregnancy tests before getting anthrax shots because a study suggests
vaccinations have resulted in some having babies with birth defects.
Officials are worried that some of the study's data may be faulty and have
ordered a review, Lt. Mike Kafka of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
But because the review could take months, the Defense Department's top
health official is asking each military service to develop a plan in two weeks
to assure that pregnant women in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines do not
get the immunizations in the meantime.
That official, Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense
for health affairs, asked the services to devise a way to enhance the screening
of women of childbearing age, "potentially including pregnancy
testing," to prevent pregnant women from getting the vaccine.
The Pentagon in 1998 ordered the vaccination of all 2.4 million members of
the active and reserve military to protect them against anthrax bacteria that,
when inhaled, can cause death in a few days. It started with those deployed to
Korea and the Middle East.
A shortage of doses last year forced a cut so only troops on "special
missions," which officials declined to identify, were vaccinated.
Throughout the program, health care workers were supposed to be asking women
if they were pregnant to avoid vaccinating those who were expecting. It is
unclear whether pregnant women who got the shots were not asked or did not know
they were pregnant at the time.
The study also seemed to indicate that some women might have been vaccinated
after their first trimester, by which time they would probably have known they
were pregnant. This prompted officials to question the data.
Under the program, more than 525,000 service members have received one or
more shots. The six- shot regime is given over 18 months, followed by a booster
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KNOWLEDGE OR OPINIONS OF THE PUBLISHER, AND IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED OR INTENDED
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VACCINATE IS AN IMPORTANT AND COMPLEX ISSUE AND SHOULD BE MADE BY YOU, AND YOU
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