The anthrax vaccine was developed using rhesus monkeys. The vaccine for humans was completed in the US during the 1950s. FDA approval of the vaccine followed in 1970. Besides its military application, the vaccine has been used consistently to vaccinate those most likely to be exposed to the disease, such as lab workers, veterinarians and people working in the livestock industry. Severe reactions to the vaccine are reported to be less than 1 per cent. The anthrax vaccine works by aiding your immune system in preventing the anthrax bacteria from producing deadly toxins. The vaccine is a sterile product that uses dead bacteria from a strain of the anthrax organism that is known to not cause the disease.
The following may not take the vaccine:
*People with a history of severe reaction to anthrax vaccination
*People with acute respiratory disease or active infection
*People with depressed immune system
*People younger than 18 or older than 65
Although potentially lethal, once human infection occurs there are treatments available.
The US government has approved the Bayer corporation's Cipro antibiotic as a primary agent for treating anthrax infection. Highlighting the urgent need for pharmacological assistance in "biological warfare" agents, the US government approved the use of Cipro based on animal data alone. Normally it would be necessary to test the compound in the human population.
Although the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September did not involve the use of biological or chemical weapons, they have added urgency to the US anthrax vaccination program and provided a chilling context for future discussions on vaccine production.
Currently, the sole manufacturer of the anthrax vaccine used by the military is Michigan-based Bioport Corporation. The company has been cited on several occasions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for manufacturing violations.