Monday October 29 10:28 AM ET
US Decides to Issue Anthrax Vaccine
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Decontamination personnel and
hundreds of state and private laboratory workers on the front line of the
anthrax scare will be eligible for vaccination against the germ warfare agent,
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Friday.
``We are recommending the vaccine for people repeatedly exposed to
anthrax,'' a CDC spokesman told Reuters.
``We're working with other agencies to round up the vaccine for them,'' the
spokesman said, in an apparent reference to the Pentagon's exclusive stockpile
of the vaccine.
He said the CDC would monitor recipients closely for any signs of dangerous
The spokesman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the program,
the first broad use of the vaccine among civilians, would cover an estimated
800 lab workers and an unknown number of decontamination specialists.
The spokesman could not, however, confirm an earlier report by CNN that
criminal investigators and even postal workers could also be eligible for the
vaccine, now restricted to members of the US armed forces and a small number of
Anthrax has killed three people, including two postal workers, and sickened at
least 11 others after letters laced with the deadly bacteria made their way
through the US mail system.
Antibiotics can easily treat and even prevent anthrax, but only if they are
given early enough. Often, by the time someone with the inhaled version of the
disease becomes seriously ill, it is too late to treat.
Untreated, inhaled anthrax kills 90% of its victims. The family of one
Washington postal worker who died said he had sought early treatment but was
told he had the flu and sent home.
Early symptoms of anthrax can resemble those of influenza and include fever,
muscle ache and a dry cough.
Thousands of people are taking antibiotics now while officials determine who
is most at risk of anthrax infection.
But health officials are reluctant to make people take antibiotics
needlessly, because of often serious side effects and because of the risk that
bacteria can become resistant to the drugs if they are used unnecessarily.
Tests have found traces of anthrax in mailrooms that serve the CIA, the
Supreme Court, Congress, the White House, the State Department and the Walter
Reed Army Institute of Research in suburban Maryland, as well as in the main
mail distribution center for New York.
The anthrax vaccine is made by Lansing, Michigan-based BioPort Corp., which
is awaiting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to resume shipping the
vaccine. The FDA stopped production at BioPort in 1998 because of quality
Virtually all the US stockpile of the vaccine is under the control of the
Pentagon, which has long worried that its soldiers will face enemy use of
anthrax on the battlefield. That stockpile appears to be the source of the CDC
Officials said the postal service had begun environmental testing at 200
postal facilities along the East Coast and random tests would be carried out at
post offices nationwide as a precaution.
The CDC said earlier it had no evidence that regular home mail was
contaminated but advised people who were worried to wash their hands after
opening their letters.
INFORMATION, DATA, AND MATERIAL CONTAINED, PRESENTED, OR PROVIDED HERE IS FOR
GENERAL INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS REFLECTING THE
KNOWLEDGE OR OPINIONS OF THE PUBLISHER, AND IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED OR INTENDED
AS PROVIDING MEDICAL OR LEGAL ADVICE. THE DECISION WHETHER OR NOT TO
VACCINATE IS AN IMPORTANT AND COMPLEX ISSUE AND SHOULD BE MADE BY YOU, AND YOU
ALONE, IN CONSULTATION WITH YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER.