Who should receive the anthrax vaccine?
The vaccine is currently recommended for use by those at most risk for occupational exposure to the bacteria, such as:
- Military personnel (due to exposure as a biological warfare weapon)
- Laboratory workers
- Livestock handlers
- People who work with animal hides or furs imported from areas of the world where the disease is common
- People who handle potentially infected animal products from areas where the disease is common
Will the anthrax vaccine become more widely available to the public?
Health officials currently do not recommend the anthrax vaccine for general use by the public because anthrax infection is very rare. In addition, the vaccine can't be practically given in response to a bioterrorism act because of its long dosing schedule – the vaccine is given as five subcutaneous injections over the course of 18 months.
If it is diagnosed early, anthrax can be successfully treated with antibiotics. In the case of an emergency such as a bioterrorist attack with anthrax, the vaccine may be made available for a series of three injections over four weeks, but would be given with oral antibiotic treatment, as well.