White House Says “No Vaccine In Guantanamo” or “On the Way to Guantanamo”…But Is That True?

By Lindsey Ellerson

Nov 3, 2009 4:36pm

Jake Tapper and Luis Martinez report:

The White House today seemed to indicate that detainees at Guantanamo will not be able to receive immunizations for the H1N1 flu.

“There is no vaccine in Guantanamo and there's no vaccine on the way to Guantanamo,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said when asked about a report that detainees would be able to get the vaccine.

So the Pentagon was wrong when it confirmed that on Friday? Gibbs was asked.

“ I don't know what the Pentagon said,” Gibbs said. “I know in asking yesterday whether or not there was any vaccine there or whether there was any vaccine that was on its way, the answer to both those questions was no.”

It is technically correct that there is no vaccine currently at Guantanamo or literally on the way to Guantanamo. But a Defense Department official says that H1N1 vaccine is scheduled to be sent there at the end of November.

Through the Department of Health and Human Services, the Pentagon has placed an order with Novartis for 2.7 million doses of H1N1 vaccine, at a total cost of $16.1 million. 

As those shipments come in they will be distributed according to the Pentagon priority list, which requires that those troops already deployed to combat or about to deploy receive it first.  Detainees are also on the Pentagon’s list, but will be eligible to receive the vaccine only after all US military forces have received the vaccine.

The vaccine will be mandatory for guards at Guantanamo. The Pentagon official said it will be offered to the detainee population, but it is left to the individual detainee if they want to receive the vaccine.   For historical comparison, the seasonal flu vaccine has been offered in the past with 25 percent of the detainees agreeing to be vaccinated.

Following the Pentagon’s priority list, the first doses the Pentagon received were made available to deployed troops.  During the week of October 26 , 208,730 all the doses of the H1N1 vaccine received by the Pentagon were sent to Central Command to cover approximately 50% of their deployed troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.   The remainder were to receive the vaccine this week.

-Jake Tapper reported from the White House and Luis Martinez reported from the Pentagon

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