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Starting this fall, all active-duty personnel will be required to get vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus, Defense Department officials announced this week.

Health care workers, deploying troops, those serving on ships and submarines, and enlistees are among those who will get the vaccination first, said Army Dr. (Lt. Col.) Wayne Hachey, director of preventive medicine for Defense Department health affairs.

“Any place where we take a bunch of people, squash them all together … and put them under stressful conditions will get the vaccine first,” Hachey said during an interview Tuesday on the military’s Pentagon Channel. “Flu on a submarine is a very bad thing. We’d rather prevent that if we can.”

Hachey said he expects DOD to begin administering the vaccine in the first half of October. The department has purchased 2.7 million doses, according to Hachey.

He said the vaccine will also be available to DOD civilians and military family members who want it.

“The question will be when your turn will come,” he said.

Military commands in Europe could not say Thursday when they expected to have the vaccine in hand.

“We’re going to make sure everyone gets it this year,” said Phil Tegtmeier, a U.S. Army Europe Regional Medical Command spokesman. “We’re working on our own plan for administering the vaccine.”

U.S. Air Forces in Europe will start vaccinating its troops for swine flu once supplies arrive, USAFE officials said Thursday, noting the program will likely occur at the same time as seasonal flu vaccinations. Active-duty personnel who have had adverse reactions to the regular influenza vaccine won’t be required to get the H1N1 vaccine, USAFE officials said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

Still uncertain is whether people will need one or two doses.

“The assumption right now is that people will need two doses, 21 days apart,” Hachey said. “That may change.”

If two doses are required, military members who deploy after their first inoculation will be able to receive a second round of the vaccination downrange, Hachey said.

The vaccine is still being tested in clinical trials. Swiss drug maker Novartis said Thursday that early results from human tests on one of its swine flu vaccines show it might work with just one dose.

Novartis is one of five manufacturers currently producing an H1N1 vaccine for the United States, according to USAFE.

As drug makers rush to develop a proven vaccine for swine flu, an official with the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said CDC will be monitoring the inoculations for safety.

“We’re not expecting any unusual events associated with the vaccine,” CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said Thursday, “since we’re using the same sort of technology to produce the seasonal flu vaccine every year.”

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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