Airmen Given Expired Anthrax Vaccines
October 28, 2010
Military.com|by Bryant Jordan
All Air Force medical facilities stopped vaccinating against anthrax on Oct. 26 after officials determined that many treatment centers administered expired vaccines earlier in the same month.
In a memo issued Oct. 26, Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Ediger, commander of the Air Force Medical Operations Agency in San Antonio, said the stand-down would remain in place until treatment centers can confirm the vaccine stock they have is current. But Ediger also said that confirmation that corrective actions had been taken were to be sent to the AFMOA by close of business Oct. 27, according to a copy of the memo obtained by Military.com.
The only exceptions to the stand-down will be for personnel slated to deploy prior to Oct. 29 if the center can confirm that its vaccine supply is current, the memo states. If the available vaccine has passed its expiration date, the medical centers must follow waiver procedures set up by the Air Force Central Command Surgeon General's office.
Also before anthrax vaccines may be routinely administered again, the medical centers will have to verify that everyone who handles them completes a review of the proper instructions on vaccine expiration, administration and documentation, the memo states.
"This must include all personnel involved from point of entry of vaccine supply into the [medical treatment facility] through point of service care to the patient and documentation," Ediger said. Ediger's office is coordinating with the Assistant Surgeon General, Health Care Operations, as well as the vaccine manufacturers, about following up on patients who may have been inoculated with the expired vaccines.
Though it is still unclear how many Airmen may have been treated with an expired dose, the Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program, or AVIP, requires troops assigned to high-threat areas to be inoculated against a potential infection.
The vaccination program was originally begun in 1998, but then ran into a number of legal battles as some servicemembers balked at taking the vaccine. Court rulings and injunctions essentially halted the military's mandatory program between 2003 and 2006, when the current anthrax vaccine program was established. The treatments resumed in February 2007.
Under AVIP, servicemembers not deploying to high-threat areas do not have to take the vaccine.
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