Anthrax: What should we learn from the 2001 attacks?


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In class during the lectures about vaccinations, anthrax and its use as a bio-terror weapon was briefly mentioned. For those who are unfamiliar with the anthrax crisis, this article explains quite well what exactly happened and the government investigation of the attacks. 
The anthrax attacks (which occurred about 3 weeks after 9/11) are considered the worst bio-terror attack in American history. The attack left 5 dead and 17 in critical condition. Anthrax is
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 curable with a large dosage of the antibiotic doxycycline, but it is only effective if it is treated almost immediately. As mentioned in class, our military personnel are currently the only people in the United States vaccinated for anthrax. Why? If anthrax has been used as a bio-terror weapon in the past, and has the potential to be used as one in the future, it seems logical to me that civilians would also be immunized, especially since the anthrax attacks of 2001 were asymmetric warfare (warfare that attacks citizens with the intent of inducing terror). Even a child contracted anthrax from the 2001 attacks. 
Looking at this transcript from an ABC News interview with the sole producer of the Anthrax vaccine and Barbara Walters, a more in depth explanation is given as to why the vaccine is not available to citizens at this time. The CEO of the company responded with vague answers such as "it will be made available for civilian use at the appropriate time". Which raises the question, when exactly is the appropriate time? After another anthrax attack is discovered? To me that seems paradoxical: the point of a vaccine is to prevent sickness, therefore wouldn't you want to administer the vaccine before a potential outbreak would occur? Just like they immunize the military before they could come into contact with the bacteria, not after. 
What seems even more odd is the time period it would take to produce the amount of vaccinations needed for our population: half of a year. Although I understand vaccinating people for a bacteria that is currently not found in our country is unnecessary unless they have the potential of coming into contact with the bacteria, it does seem logical to immunize people in the public eye who seemed to be the intended victims of the 2001 anthrax attacks, as well as to create enough of the vaccine in case another episode of bio-terrorism using anthrax were to occur.
Bio-terrorism is a pressing issue for the United States. After several threats of it by al-Qaeda and the cases of anthrax in civilian population, it seems like it is necessary to create a feasible, effective plan of action to take should another outbreak occur. 
In class we also discussed risk and how to make effective decisions by looking at it. I have calculated anthrax's risk as a medium low possibility of exposure, but a high hazard risk as the disease usually causes death unless treated immediately and effectively through use of antibiotics. So, the risk is, in my opinion, still a high risk as bio-terrorism is still a real concern in the United States. Since our current chances of contracting anthrax are low because there is currently no anthrax in the United States, vaccination may not be a priority. Looking at the other risks we subject ourselves to everyday, like getting into a car, I still feel it is perfectly rational to vaccinate people against anthrax. 

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