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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The number of soldiers receiving the anthrax vaccine series in South Korea likely will increase over the summer, an official said Wednesday.

That’s because of the summer turnover, with some servicemembers either coming from, or going to, a high-threat area that makes them eligible for the shots, said Thomas J. Dembeck, joint military vaccine program analyst for U.S. Forces Korea.

“They would like to have everyone have the first three series of the shots prior to deployment,” Dembeck said. The series involves six shots taken over 19 months, supplemented with annual boosters.

The number of servicemembers currently receiving shots was not released but Dembeck said it is small.

The vaccine is mandatory for people receiving orders to high-threat areas where the anthrax shot is required, Dembeck said. Many of the high-threat areas are in Central Command’s region but the names of the countries have not been released to the public, Dembeck said. South Korea is not a high-threat region so blanket vaccinations aren’t occurring.

Those who have started anthrax vaccinations in another area will continue to receive the series while stationed in South Korea, he said.

The Defense Department decided in December 1997 to vaccinate all servicemembers against anthrax. Anthrax spores — which cause flu-like symptoms that develop into a massive bacterial infection — can be incorporated into artillery shells.

The program was stopped in 1998 for all but researchers and veterinarians while the sole manufacturer, Michigan-based BioPort Corp., underwent renovations. The Defense Department resumed the anthrax vaccination program on a limited basis in June 2002.

Although a new vaccine is being produced, “the belief is we may never go to another full-resumption policy,” Dembeck said.

North Korea is believed to have anthrax, among other chemical weapons.


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