News

DATE=8/5/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=ANTHRAX VACCINE MONEY - (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-252531 BYLINE=JIM RANDLE DATELINE=PENTAGON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Pentagon officials say they have agreed to a huge price increase for the vaccine that is supposed to protect millions of U-S service personnel against threatened germ warfare attacks. V-O-A's Jim Randle reports, the economic problems follow the refusal of hundreds of service members to get inoculations against deadly anthrax. TEXT: Pentagon officials say anthrax is easier to turn into a weapon than other deadly diseases, making it the germ threat that U-S troops are most likely to face on the battlefield. Ten nations are said to have the ability to develop and use anthrax, including Iraq and Russia. Only one company in the United States produces the vaccine against anthrax, and the firm says it will go bankrupt trying to produce it at the price agreed to in a 1998 contract with the Defense Department. BioPort Corporation of Lansing Michigan was supposed to produce millions of doses of vaccine for just over four dollars per inoculation. Under the renegotiated contract they will more than double the price to over ten dollars. A series of six shots is needed over several years for the vaccine to offer full protection. Pentagon officials, who briefed reporters on condition that they not be named, say they have examined the company's financial records and agree that the earlier price is too low. The change will cost the Pentagon millions of dollars and may spark criticism from the congressional committees that oversee the military budget. Service personnel have protested that the vaccine was not properly tested before it was administered. More than 200 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have been disciplined for refusing orders to take the shots. But 320 thousand of the personnel thought most likely to be deployed to danger areas have been inoculated with about one million doses of the vaccine. Pentagon officials admit temporary side-effects such as minor swelling and redness in the injection area affect almost half the soldiers treated. But they say the testing program has been adequate and there is no evidence that the vaccine has made anyone seriously ill. (Signed) NEB/JR/TVM/gm 05-Aug-1999 17:39 PM EDT (05-Aug-1999 2139 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .