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Anthrax vaccine gets good grade, but could do better

Anthrax vaccine gets good grade, but could do better

By Christy Feig
CNN Medical Unit

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The current anthrax vaccine is safe and effective and can be used until a better one is developed, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Institute of Medicine.

The report listed several drawbacks of the current vaccine, primarily that it must be given in six doses over 18 months. That means it wouldn't necessarily provide instant protection to a bioterrorism attack or help people quickly protect themselves.

No vaccine is completely safe, the report said, but researchers found no unexpected short-term adverse reactions to the anthrax vaccine. However, the institute is urging the U.S. Department of Defense to create a system to monitor long-term health effects, of which evidence is limited.

The only anthrax vaccine currently approved for human use in the United States is made by BioPort Corp. in Lansing, Michigan. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1970, primarily for veterinarians, workers who process animal hair, and scientists working with anthrax samples.

Learn more with the anthrax in-depth  index

In response to concerns about biological warfare threats during and after the Persian Gulf War, the Department of Defense in 1997 announced plans to vaccinate all U.S. service members to protect them against possible anthrax bioweapon attacks.

About 2 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, mostly to U.S. military personnel, but some 400 military personnel have refused the shots because of concerns they may be linked to chronic fatigue, memory loss, and other health problems.

These concerns are what prompted Congress to ask for the Institute of Medicine report.


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