Vaccines are a controversial topic. Are they safe? Do they work? Do they actually cause disease? Setting these questions aside for a minute, I want to briefly discuss the anthrax vaccine. Yes, there is a vaccine! It is also made for both animals and humans. Personally, I don't hear about a lot of vaccines for bacteria - usually just viruses. There is only one vaccine that is licensed and approved called, BioThraxTM. Developed in 1970, it is made with attenuated B. anthracis and recommended for people 18-65 years old, who also happen to be at high risk of exposure to B. anthracis (fda.gov). It is suggested that the vaccine will protect against cutaneous and inhalation anthrax. Typically, one needs a series of 5 shots, plus annual boosters.
Check out the vaccine fact sheet from the CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-anthrax.pdf
While trying to find some vaccine information, I stumbled upon this site, which actually seems more like a blog. http://genome.fieldofscience.com/2011/10/anthrax-vaccine-boondoggle.html Either way the writer, Steven Salzberg, is very opinionated about the anthrax vaccine. He acknowledges that vaccines are vital to today's world because they have eradicated diseases and saved lives. However, he insists that the anthrax vaccine is not a good idea. Polio and influenza, for example, are highly contagious and easily transmissible. Salzberg states clearly that anthrax is not infectious because it cannot spread from one person to another. I myself must admit that I have never heard of anthrax being spread person to person. Salzberg claims that making the vaccine is a complete waste of government money and scientist's time, especially because the Washington Post wrote an article about a clinical study where the vaccine would be tested in children. Rob Stein, the writer of the article states, "The National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB), which advises the federal government on issues related to bioterrorism, voted 12-1 to recommend that the Health and Human Services Department move forward with a study aimed at determining whether the vaccine is safe and effective in children and identifying the best dose." Personally, I will have to conduct a bit more research, as this sounds borderline unethical (experimenting to see if children will get anthrax if a dose isn't high enough). I see benefits of the vaccine for people at high risk such as farmers or people who work with hides and furs. I would not argue that a vaccine would be to military men and women's advantage. My hesitance lies in giving vaccines to people who are not at risk because it would be completely unnecessary. One of Darwin's four postulates says that there is variation in populations. There is also the topic of resistance that correlates with variation. One strain might be more resistant than another. B. anthracis could easily mutate and if several people receive a vaccine, the vaccine might not protect against the mutated organism. This new one would be selected for and the vaccine would be, quite frankly, worthless. At least, that's how I see it :/
|A child recieving a vaccine. Hope she gets a sticker after!|
The Washington Post article can be found here or linked in Salzberg's article.http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/federal-advisers-endorse-testing-anthrax-vaccine-in-children/2011/10/27/gIQA95i7PM_story.html