ANTHRAX VACCINE PROGRAM?
Supposedly, skin-contact infections with anthrax give about
a 20% fatality rate, but inhalation infections give about a
90% fatality rate. If antibiotics are given before the onset
of symptoms for inhalational anthrax infection, then the
mortality rate is lowered only to about 80%. If symptoms
have already appeared, then the antibiotics may do little good.
On the other hand, the anthrax vaccine is supposed to be
about 93% effective. This means that the vaccine is
quite effective, while antibiotics are comparatively
If these figures are correct- a large and interesting "if"- then
it makes little sense for the government response to be simply
to stockpile antibiotics, to try to rush them to the scene
of an outbreak. The only logical program would be one
of vaccination, which would supposedly save many more lives.
Trusting the data and the vaccines is another matter.
The military has had a large program, but it is still
controversial and still has significant resistance.
Also, it is not so clear that the vaccines are useful
against inhaled, weaponized anthrax. The vaccine
studies to date have been using people who have a
natural, occupational exposure to anthrax, not an
exposure to a biowarfare scenario.
The shameful cover-up concerning Gulf War Syndrome
is another powerful reason not to trust government
figures concerning anthrax vaccine safety. It is entirely
possible that health side-effects have been masked
sometimes with a dubious diagnosis of "stress" or
"being a cry-baby".
The situation is a dilemma, because we certainly are in need
of a vaccine. We need to know the truth, with neither
blind trust nor blind paranoia clouding our judgement.
This brings us to another interesting thought. The U.S.
Congress is now clearly a "risk" group, for anthrax,
as surely as participants in the previous Gulf War
were known to be at risk.
It would make sense to vaccinate the entire Congress
and their staffs. If the Congress does not do this, the
public certainly should expect an explanation as to
why not. The Congress certainly has had no sympathy
for U.S. servicemen or women who wished not to
get the vaccine. To see Congress taking the vaccine
would certainly help allay any public anxiety over
the safety of the vaccine.
It would also help to know what the likely geographical
reach of an anthrax attack in a major city would likely
be. For how large of a radius should people consider the
vaccine, if the government decides to offer one?
If the government does not opt to make the vaccine freely
available to the general public, then that would prompt
another logical question: Is this because the safety of
the vaccine is not as clearly known, as has been claimed?
Might the safety claims have been overstated, simply
to avoid objections from military personnel, and
possible litigation over side-effects?