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Team convenes to review anthrax program

Released: 19 Mar 1999


WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- Trying to balance force protection with concerns from some people about the safety of vaccinations, the Air Force is forming a team to look at all aspects of its anthrax program. Assistant vice chief of staff Lt. Gen. David L. Vesely is taking charge of an anthrax integrated processing team. Veseley said the team will "review everything from the threat to the policies, processes, impacts on operations, morale, discipline, etc."

The secretary of defense approved the overall Defense Department plan May 18 to vaccinate all U.S. service members for anthrax. This approval was based on the successful completion of all testing and operational criteria. The vaccination is to serve as one of the primary defenses against the use of biological warfare by rogue nations.

Since then, the Air Force has immunized more than 64,000 airmen. The overwhelming majority of airmen have received the vaccine without complaint; however, several airmen have faced disciplinary actions or resigned from the military rather than have the shots.

In announcing the Air Force review, Vesely said, "We'll take a total-force approach to capture the entire landscape of the issues. We'll then report at least quarterly to the senior Air Force leadership on the status of the programs, define the issues and recommend actions."

Lt. Gen. Charles H. Roadman II, Air Force surgeon general, sees the team's formation as a good way to look at how far the service has come and where it needs to go in its anthrax program.

"There is no doubt we are on the right course," he said, "but when implementing any large program it is good management to reflect on how well progress is going.

"The team will examine lessons learned so far, what target audiences we still need to reach and how can we improve education so people will clearly understand they must fear the disease, not the vaccine."

RELATED SITES

* Anthrax Site
* Department of Defense
* Lt. Gen Charles H. Roadman II
* Lt. Gen. David L. Vesely