For Anthrax, the Pentagon Rolls Up Its Sleeves

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WASHINGTON: Already accustomed to more needles than a porcupine, military personnel will soon be getting an anthrax vaccination a shot, some vets claim, that contributed to Gulf War Syndrome. The Pentagon plans to inoculate all 1.5 million men and women in the armed forces against the deadly anthrax spores.

Concerned about biological warfare in the weeks and months preceding the Gulf War, the Defense Department pumped soldiers full of vaccines designed to protect against everything from botulinum toxin to anthrax a chemical cocktail that some charge caused illnesses after the war.

"It's not the quantity of the vaccinations so much as the possibly overwhelming effect they could have had on the immune system," says TIME science writer Christine Gorman. But because of the large number of variables involved, determining whether the mix contributed to a Gulf War Syndrome is still difficult if not impossible. Pentagon officials insist the vaccine, licensed by the FDA since 1970, is safe and effective. With UN inspectors still certain that Saddam Hussein is hiding anthrax powder, the Pentagon believes the benefits of prevention outweigh questions about the cure.