Anthrax Vaccination

The anthrax vaccination is the only known defense available for United States Troops against the
deadly anthrax virus. Many experts have said it is not effective against inhalation anthrax. Studies have
not been conclusive in their findings. The chance of living if you have received the anthrax vaccination
seems better. More studies should be conducted outside the Department of Defense, with their
cooperation, before the process to vaccinate troops continues.

Anthrax is a disease normally associated with plant eating animals (sheep, goats, and cattle) caused by
the bacterium Bacillius anthracis. It is now controlled through vaccination programs throughout the
world including the United States. Human infection with anthrax usually results from contact with
infected animals or products. Anthrax was discovered by Robert Koch in 1876. An effective vaccine for
animals was developed in 1881 by Louis Pasteur. In humans, the disease appears in both external and
internal forms. The external form is contracted through cuts and breaks in the skin. The internal form is
caught by inhaling anthrax spores, which invade the lungs and intestinal tract (Funk and Wagnalls New
Encyclopedia, 1996).

Russian scientists have created a new form of the anthrax virus by genetic engineering. Col. Arthur
Friedlander , chief of the bacteriology division at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute states, ”The
evidence that they presented suggested that it could be resistant to our vaccine” (Riechman, Army Times
03-09-98). When anthrax is used as a biological weapon, people become infected by breathing the
spores released in the air. Anthrax is 100,000 times deadlier than the deadliest chemical warfare agent. It
is the preferred biological agent because it is easy to produce in bulk and the materials are low in cost.
(B.D.Hawkins,Army Times) Dr. Jose Ramero Cruz, of the World Health Organization states,”Because
anthrax spores are resistant to dryness and heat, they are relatively easy to grind and store”. U.S. officials
say that as many as 12 countries including Russia, Iraq, and North Korea, have established capabilities to
produce and load deadly anthrax spores into weapons (D.Funk, Army Times, 3-19-98). An anthrax
loaded scud missile could kill 100,000 people in an urban area according to a 1993 study, “Proliferation
of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Assessing the Risks”, (J. Erlich, Army Times, 9-8-97). No country is
known to have released the biological agent during wartime. Anthrax has the potential to cover large
areas of the battlefield. It is not known what branch of service, front line, or rear area troops would be at
greater risks. Defense Secretary William Cohen stated, “Anthrax is the poor man’s atomic bomb” (D.
Funk, Army Times,1-12-98).

The anthrax vaccine is used to protect against anthrax. It contains only dead organisms. Human
vaccination was developed in England and the United States in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. The
vaccination was licensed and approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 1970. The
vaccination is produced by Michigan Biologic Products Institute located in Lansing, Michigan. It has
been administered to veterinarians, laboratory workers, and livestock handlers safely for over twenty five
years (D.Funk, Army Times, 8-31-98). The anthrax vaccination prevents illness by stimulating the
body’s natural disease fighting abilities. It has not been proven whether the vaccination will work against
inhaled anthrax. The informational insert that usually comes with the vaccine could not be obtained. I did
find that according to the Michigan Department of Public Health in Lansing, Michigan there are no
references for using the vaccine for inhaled anthrax (Joyce, AGWVA). Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, General Henry H. Shelton says we have stockpiled a safe and effective vaccine to protect our
forces against anthrax (DefenseLINK a., 18June98). There are many views and arguments to this
statement. One that may not be resolved until further research can be done or anthrax is used against
troops who have received the vaccination. Almost all cases of inhalation anthrax in which treatment was
started after symptoms began, have resulted in death, regardless of treatment afterwards. Being
vaccinated greatly increases your chances of surviving an exposure to anthrax. Without the vaccination
or protection (MOPP gear) it has a ninety-nine percent death rate to unprotected persons (PROMED (03)
PRO/AH). From this point of view, it would beneficial to receive the vaccination.

Since 1970, there have been no known long term side effects associated with the anthrax vaccination.
Reported side effects to the vaccine are mostly limited to local reactions. They include, sore arm,
redness, and slight swelling at the injection site in 30 percent of recipients. Severe