Anthrax Vaccine Running Low


WASHINGTON , DC-Pentagon officials do not want to discuss the decreasing levels of an anthrax vaccine that could help protect service people headed to the Middle East. Officials will not release the amount of vaccine they have left, but there is only one manufacturer of the medication.

Additionally, this sole manufacturer, Bioport of Lansing, Michigan, is waiting on federal license approval and not currently making the vaccine. The company took over a state facility and began making the vaccine in 1998. They have been trying to license the facility since then, but have had problems with test procedures. Company officials have reportedly said they will provide the necessary information for licensure to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by October 15.

The vaccine is of increased importance after the tragic events of September 11. American military troops are on their way to the Middle East, where suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden has reportedly trained his fighters to use chemical weapons.

Anthrax is caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis, which infects warm-blooded animals most frequently. However, it can also be produced in a dry form for biological warfare and stored in ground particles. Upon inhalation of these particles, humans suffer from respiratory failure and death within a week.

In December, military officials announced they had only 60,000 doses of the vaccine left. They began vaccinating only military personnel who were going to the Persian Gulf for 30 days, or for troops on "special missions." Today, more than 500,000 service members have received a portion of the six-shot vaccination.

Pentagon official have said they think Iraq and other countries have developed biological weapons, such as anthrax. The original plan was to vaccinate all 2.4 million service members against the bacterium.

However, licensure and manufacturing have temporarily delayed this goal.

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