ANTHRAX One of the most important responsibilities a Secretary of Defense has is to make sure the United States' military members are protected as much as possible from any type of harm. Since the cease-fire of the Gulf War, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have discovered that anthrax has become the number one biological threat to our troops. With finding this information, the Secretary of Defense, William S. Cohen, has decided to ensure that each military member is protected from anthrax with its vaccine. Senior military leaders are accepting nothing less than total acceptance for the anthrax vaccine. The reason is that military members have been refusing to take the vaccine due to unsubstantiated reports popping up on various Internet sites. These sites have been claiming that the anthrax vaccine is "experimental" and will cause harm if taken.

However, the senior military leaders also have been doing what they can to properly educate their members about the anthrax vaccine. Anything less than total acceptance of the anthrax vaccine is not permissible. ALIFF-SANCHEZ 2 Anthrax is an infectious disease which is caused by the spore forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax can be deadly if the symptoms haven't been caught in time for treatment. Anthrax infection can occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation, and gastrointestinal. B. Anthracis spores can live in the soil for many years and humans can be infected with anthrax by handling animal products from infected animals or by inhaling anthrax spores from contaminated animal products. Eating uncooked meat from infected animals can also spread anthrax.

Anthrax can also be spread by biological warfare. Any country that has biological warfare capability can use anthrax on its warheads to spread anthrax (FAQs 1). Since the threat of anthrax has been discovered, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that all members of the military receive mandatory vaccinations against this disease. However, the first set of immunizations will go to troops scheduled to go to the Middle East and Korea (Cohen 1). Force protection should not be optional. Moreover, it would be totally incomprehensible to send a soldier on the front lines withoutALIFF-SANCHEZ 3 a helmet; it would make even less sense to send a soldier out into a biologically unfriendly environment without being immunized against it (Cohen 2).

The fear of anthrax vaccine has been unfounded. Unfortunately, the anthrax vaccine has been getting unreasonable criticism in some circles. In particular, a few people have posted incorrect information on Internet sites and distributed it through e-mail campaigns. Truly accurate information will make it logical to fear the disease, not the vaccine (Roadman 1). Commanders, military members, and their families must become informed about anthrax and to get their information from reliable sources (Roadman 2). Just because the source is on the "information super highway" does not mean it is the most accurate or reliable.

Many military members don't trust military leaders because of unresponsiveness to past concerns. They mention:" soldiers being contaminated during early nuclear weapons testing in the 1940's and 1950's, and combat forces exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam in the 1960's and 1970's. They also ALIFF-SANCHEZ 4 cite lingering mystery surrounding an array of illnesses suffered by many Gulf War veterans in the 1990s" (Richey 2). Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre said he would not ask a soldier to put something into his arm if he wasn't prepared to take it himself.

This says a lot for the higher echelon of leaders. Most leaders would not put themselves out on the line to do this, but Secretary Hamre is making himself an example to military members to prove that the anthrax vaccination is harmless (Kozaryn 2). Surgeon General of the Army, Dr (Lt. Gen.) Ronald E. Black, said that most of the problems military units have had with their members is lack of proper education given about the anthrax virus. To solve this problem, commanders' total involvement is required in educating their subordinates about the vaccine (Kozaryn 2).

Those members who still refuse to take the shot are at the mercy of their commanders. Commanders have the option to issue non-judicial punishment or court-martial, or authorize discharge from the service (Kozaryn 2). A court-martial is a military tribunal court that will predict the history of one's military career. One example of this is when Airman First Class Jeffrey Bettendorf at ALIFF-SANCHEZ 5 Travis AFB, CA refused to obey direct orders given by his commander to take the anthrax vaccination series. Originally, he was given an Article 15 (non-judicial punishment), but he was also given a summary court-martial when refused to obey direct orders the second time. Instead of mistrusting commanders who are trying to protect them, military members should be more skeptical about supposed information found on the Internet.

Military members must get the facts about this vaccine to relieve their fears and protect themselves and their families from this terrible disease.


PAGE Cohen, William S., Secretary of Defense. "Commentary: Protecting Our Military". AF News. 07 Feb 00. Online. web Asked Questions. Arnot Ogden Medical Center. web Linda D., American Forces Press Service. "Defense Leaders Stand Firm on Anthrax Shot Program". AF News. 07 Oct 99. Online. web 991868.
html. Richey, Warren. "A Vaccination War Erupts in the Military". Christian Science Monitor Jan 1999: 2-3.