The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has opened the door to voluntary anthrax vaccination for first responders, revising an 8-year-old recommendation against that step.
The committee, meeting yesterday, said the risk of anthrax exposure for emergency responders is low but "may not be zero," and therefore first-responder agencies may want to offer the vaccine on a voluntary basis, according to information supplied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today.
It is worth reading the entire article.
What does this mean to us? Hmmmmm. Is there something we don't know or is someone simply confirming the world may not be the place it once was?
How long do you think it took to craft the statement "may not be zero?"
Sorry. Don't mean to be cynical. As a matter of fact I (along with many others) cringe every time I see the headline "breaking news" come across my Blackberry. In a post-9/11 world we know there are risks. Perhaps this just makes it a bit more real.
Achieving protection would require 6 vaccinations over 18 months that have some side effects. It would also require yearly boosters. It is vital to make an informed decision about this one.
How about a program for EMS, Fire and Police similar to mail carriers being issued antibiotics:
Oct 2, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Federal health officials yesterday announced a plan to supply mail carriers with antibiotics so they will be protected and prepared to deliver the drugs to others in case of an anthrax attack.
The program will start with a $500,000 pilot project involving carriers in Minneapolis and St. Paul, which were chosen because of their extensive bioterrorism preparations, according to an Associated Press (AP) report yesterday.
"In an anthrax attack, time is of the essence," Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a news release. "By providing advance protection to letter carriers who volunteer to deliver antibiotics in an affected community, we can gain the benefits of the unique capabilities of the Postal Service to get much needed medicine to those who need it quickly."
Inhalational anthrax is usually fatal unless the patient is treated with antibiotics early. In 2001, five people died and 17 others got sick after envelopes containing anthrax spores were sent to several media offices and two US senators.
In recent years, HHS and the Postal Service ran exercises in which mail carriers in Seattle, Philadelphia, and Boston delivered empty pill bottles and explanatory fliers to residents. Carriers paired up with police officers to distribute the items, the AP reported. William Raub, Leavitt's senior science adviser, said that 50 carriers reached about 53,000 Philadelphia households in 8 hours, according to the story.
The tests were part of the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI), a federally funded effort to equip 72 major cities with the ability to deliver antibiotics to their entire populations within 48 hours, in the name of bioterrorism preparedness.
According to the AP, the Postal Service and its unions told the government that carriers who volunteered to deliver antibiotics in an anthrax emergency would need assurances that they and their families would be protected. That led to the idea of giving carriers a supply of doxycycline to keep at home for themselves and their families. In an emergency, they could start taking the drug while the government brought in supplies that the carriers would deliver to residents.
No, we're definitely not in Kansas anymore.