Marine Corps updates anthrax vaccine policy

The U.S. Marine Corps recently set an updated policy regarding the use of the anthrax vaccine.

Administrative message 452/11, released on August 11, incorporates several changes to the policy since it was introduced in 2007, according to

The vaccine is still considered mandatory for many marines, but not all. The full vaccination course includes five injections over an 18 month period, as opposed to six as stipulated by earlier rules. The injections are no longer to be given subcutaneously. They will all be administered intramuscularly.

The military mandated the shots for soldiers beginning in 1998, but the program was halted in 2004 when dozens of troops were court-martialed for refusing to take the vaccine, fearing potentially dangerous side effects. Hundreds more were administratively punished for their refusal.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration certified the vaccine soon after the incidents and the mandatory program officially resumed in 2007, reports. Since then, the rules have evolved.

The shots are mandatory for anyone deploying to the U.S. Central Command area of operations for more than 15 consecutive days. This includes uniformed personnel, emergency-essential and equivalent civilian personnel, and contractors. Afghanistan and Iraq are part of Central Command’s area of operations.

Marines assigned to III Marine Expeditionary Force units in Japan, those deploying to the Korean peninsula and those deploying to the Horn of Africa are all expected to take the vaccine. All Chemical Biological Incident Response Force personnel are also included, reports.

Personnel assigned to Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command must be vaccinated only if they are scheduled to deploy to the designated mandatory areas. Previous orders included mandatory vaccination for all of those assigned to MARSOC.

Pregnant marines are not to receive the vaccine until after delivery. Those who are not scheduled for deployment to an area that requires the vaccine will be allowed to stop the course of treatment.

Marines who refuse the vaccine outright and are required to take it face disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to