USS PELELIU, At sea - Sailors aboard USS Peleliu (LHA 5) began anthrax vaccinations, July 23, as part of a mandatory immunization program to protect its fighting force.
Peleliu's medical department coordinated the immunizations, ordering 1,300 doses of the anthrax vaccine for the ship's crew to be administered over a two-week period.
"Pre-exposure immunizations to our Sailors are very important because an anthrax scare or bio-terrorism scare can affect our mission," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Roseann Robles of Monterey, Calif. "It's especially important for our newest shipmates to be caught up on the required immunizations for our area of responsibility."
A disease normally associated with livestock and plant-eating animals, anthrax has been recognized for centuries. It is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and symptoms include fever, cough, weakness, breathing problems, shock, and death. Anthrax can be used as a biological weapon with a 99 percent fatality rate to those who become infected.
Because of its ease of production, anthrax is a very real threat to service members aboard Peleliu.
"We need to verify the Department of Defense requirement when we go forward into a danger zone or known war zone," said Command Master Chief David Dearie. "Everybody has to receive their immunizations; their anthrax; their booster shots. There is a time requirement we must meet before we can go into theaters that may have biological weapons involved."
The anthrax vaccine is a formalin-inactivated vaccine and contains no living organisms. The vaccine has been licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 1970 and has since been safely and routinely administered to military personnel as well as veterinarians, laboratory workers, and livestock handlers. Civilian medical organizations such as Centers for Disease Control and Institute of Medicine agree the vaccine is safe and effective.
"Some people are afraid of the vaccine because they don't really understand why they need to be pre-immunized before exposure," Robles said. "The immunization elicits a response from the body that creates a barrier against the disease. The ship needs to maintain at least 95 percent immunization in the event of a scare, so we can still continue the mission."
Some Sailors aboard Peleliu are glad to receive the immunizations.
"Honestly, I think it's great that we get the anthrax shot," said Seaman Hunter Sortore, from the southern Los Angeles area. "I'd hate to be deployed in a situation where I need it but don't have it."
Peleliu is the flagship for the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and is currently underway conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) in the Pacific Ocean with amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20).