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Nation Digest: H1N1 vaccine headed for Guantanamo Bay

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Monday, November 2, 2009

GUANTANAMO BAY

Terrorism suspects to get H1N1 vaccine

Terrorism suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base will soon get swine flu vaccines, despite complaints that American civilians should have priority, a military spokesman said Sunday.

Army Maj. James Crabtree, a spokesman for the U.S. military prison in Cuba, said the doses should start arriving this month, with guards and then inmates scheduled for inoculations.

He acknowledged that there may be an "emotional response" from critics who argue that suspected terrorists should not receive the vaccine while members of the U.S. public are still waiting because of a shortage.

But he said U.S. military officials are "responsible for the health and care of the detainee population." Medical personnel at Guantanamo Bay requested the doses, but Crabtree said he did not know how many.

Detainees will be vaccinated "entirely on a voluntary basis," he said. "There is always going to be a segment of the population that is going to refuse," either because of anxiety about a shot or "distrust of our motivations."

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told CNN's "State of the Union" show on Sunday that he does not agree with the H1N1 vaccination plans for the detainees.

"I don't think it's a good idea. The administration probably didn't think it would be very popular either," Boehner said.

Health officials have recommended that people in high-risk groups receive the swine flu vaccination first. There has been heated debate in several U.S. states about where prisoners should fall in the pecking order of vaccine recipients.

Scott A. Allen, a spokesman for Physicians for Human Rights, an international medical group, said that there are "certain basic obligations the U.S. has to its prisoners," and that vaccinations for influenza fall into that category.

-- Associated Press


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