Terrorists could use the potentially deadly Anthrax bacteria on an attack against the United States, and there is plenty of vaccine stockpiled for use against this and other possible biological agents of warfare. However they have never been tested on children so the effectiveness and possible side effects of the vaccines are unknown in children.
The Obama administration has asked the National Biodefense Science Board to meet today (Friday) to discuss this rather delicate and slightly shocking issue. The board provides advice and guidelines to The Department of Health and Human Services on issues relating to preparations for chemical, biological and nuclear emergencies. Set up in 2006, by statute, the NBSB has 13 voting members with a broad range of expertise in science, medicine, and public health. Additionally, there are non-voting ex officio members, as deemed appropriate by the Secretary.
The board was established in 2006 under the authority of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, signed into law By G.W. Bush on December 19, 2006. Its duties and goals may seem noble but it becomes a little reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984 and gives some cause for concern, when Government Departments begin discussing such macabre programs as this.
Considering the amount of resistance already in place against basic vaccines such as measles, hepatitis as well as the controversies surrounding autism and mercury based preservatives in some vaccines, commencing a program such as testing Anthrax vaccines on children is bound to prompt a fair amount of outrage.
Anthony Robbins, a former director of the US National Vaccine Program has written a piece for ABC News that addresses this issue. He points out that the advisory board and parents considering enrolling their children in an anthrax vaccine study needs to know about the likelihood of an anthrax release in the US in order to fully weigh the risks and benefits -- but Robbins considers it unlikely that parents will have enough information to assess the risk of a release:
Parents offered a slot in the anthrax vaccine trial for their children would have to rely on the same experts who believed there were biological weapon stockpiles in Iraq. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, our government intelligence agencies invented a biological weapons threat, imagining Iraqi stockpiles of smallpox virus and anthrax spores; stockpiles that were never found.
Ethical research requires subjects that are fully informed of the risks, but of course with it being a classified defense program, there is a need to withhold some information, making it difficult for parents to trust or even have sufficient information on enrolling their children.
Perhaps a solution would be for the board and those involved in the program to use their own children first?
Written by Rupert Shepherd.