To test now or to maybe test later? That is the question the Obama Administration advisory group will answer this week over a vaccine that has never been given to children: the one for anthrax.
The anthrax vaccine, which has been tested for adults, is a vaccine that may not ever be necessary and doctors are not sure how children would react to it. But, as The Washington Post reports, the National Biodefense Science Board, which advises the federal government, will vote Friday to decide if children should tested for the vaccine before an attack takes place:
“At the end of the day, do we want to wait for an attack and give it to millions and millions of children and collect data at that time?” said Daniel B. Fagbuyi of Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, who chaired the group. “Or do we want to say: ‘How do we best protect our children?’ We can take care of Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle and Auntie. But right now, we have nothing for the children.”
The Post notes that parents are allowed to volunteer their children for testing of vaccines and treatments, but generally the child had the potential to receive some benefit from the vaccine or treatment:
“With this, you’re putting children at risk for no clear scientific or medical benefit,” said Meryl Nass, a doctor in Bangor, Maine, who is one of the most outspoken critics of testing the vaccine in children. Nass and others maintain that there are serious questions about the vaccine’s effectiveness in adults as well as concerns about sometimes serious complications among those vaccinated in the military. A variety of complications have been reported, including nervous system and autoimmune disorders, Nass said.
“Really, the core question is ‘Why? Why test?’,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, a Washington-based advocacy group for children. “We don’t want to be subjecting kids to risks needlessly.”
Anthrax is a bacteria that causes an infectious disease that is either cutaneous, respiratory or gastrointestinal. According to the National Institute of Health, up to 20 percent of people who are infected through contact with skin and do not get treatment may die. Respiratory and gastrointestinal infections can be more serious. Currently, the vaccine is widely distributed to those who work in bioterrorism or members of the military that are deployed for 15 days or more in areas like the Middle East.