Background: In recognition of concerns that anthrax vaccination might be a trigger for "Gulf war syndrome", anthrax vaccinations were offered to UK armed forces in the 2003 Iraq conflict using explicit as opposed to implicit consent, as is the policy for all other vaccinations. This paper examines responses of personnel to this policy.
Methods: Qualitative analysis of free text responses to a question inviting comments on any concerns about the anthrax vaccination, asked in the context of a questionnaire assessing military health amongst 1000 members of the UK armed forces following the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Results: Two hundred and two (20.2%) respondents made comments reflecting concerns about the vaccine's effectiveness and its safety. These appeared to be magnified by suspicions about the motives behind the informed consent policy for anthrax but not other vaccinations.
Conclusion: While the informed consent policy for anthrax vaccinations was intended to decrease concern, it may inadvertently have had the opposite effect.