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The News Journal
A Gannett Newspaper

W. Curtis Riddle
President and Publisher

Thursday, May 13, 1999

OUR VIEW

VACCINATIONS

Dover base commander
counters anthrax fears
by explaining necessity

One often thinks of the military as an unresponsive machine. Last week Col. Felix M. Grieder, who commands the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base, demonstrated that isn't always accurate. The colonel suspended mandatory anthrax vaccinations at the base when a number of those under his command expressed concerns about the vaccine’s safety and a few reported severe reactions.

He made a "commander’s call" to suspend inoculations and held an apparently much needed information session with the Air Force surgeon general. The open discussion about the vaccine and why it is required of military personnel who will serve in certain foreign locations apparently did much to relieve tension at the base.

We suspect the Air Force sent Lt. Gen. Charles Roadman, the surgeon general, to Dover to make a larger point.

Dover became the first military installation in the country to suspend mandatory anthrax vaccination. Reaction at Dover and other military locations was spurred by allegations in Vanity Fair magazine and on the Internet questioning the safety of the vaccine, meant to protect against an almost always deadly virus.

Once explanations were made, resistance at Dover settled down and the vaccination program resumed. It was a smart move by Col. Grieder and the Air Force. Perhaps a better, more complete explanation to personnel in the first place would have headed off trouble.

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