The Obama administration is considering whether to allow an anthrax vaccine to be tested on children. The vaccine has been given to more than 2.6 million members of the military but never has been given to or tested on children, The Washington Post
A group of advisers recently endorsed testing, but the National Biodefense Science Board is reviewing the recommendation.
“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?” Daniel Fagbuyi, chairman of the group that recommended testing, told the Post. “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.”
Although the vaccine has been tested extensively on adults, testing on children is controversial. Unlike diseases such as measles and mumps that children could come into contact with easily, exposure to anthrax is likely to occur only in a bioterror attack.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s something that makes a great deal of sense,” Joel Frader, a pediatrician and bioethicist at Northwestern University, told the Post. “It would be difficult to justify testing it on kids simply on the hypothetical possibility that there might be an attack.”
The anthrax attacks in 2001 killed five people and sickened 17 others. The Pentagon, which began a military anthrax immunization program in 1998, requires a variety of service members to take the vaccine. The government has stockpiled the vaccine in case of attack, the Post reported.
Should testing on children eventually be recommended, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and other agencies would be involved to work out the details. Parents would have to give permission for their child to be tested, the Post reported.
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