Anthrax Vaccine to be Tested on Children?

A panel of advisors recommended Friday the federal government move forward with a controversial study to test anthrax vaccines on children.

The recommendation came after the National Biodefense Science Board voted 12-1 in favor of the study. The group advises the federal government on bioterrorism issues.

The study would determine if the vaccine is safe to use, effective and which doses to give children.

But the recommendation isn’t sitting well with all Americans.

"The trial would expose healthy children to substantial harm with no possibility of benefit," Vera Sharav of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a New York-based advocacy group, told the Washington Post.

The panel, however, said the study is a necessary first step in the ongoing efforts to protect Americans against terrorism.

"We need to know more about the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine as we develop plans to use the vaccine on a large number of children in the event of a bioterrorist's attack," Ruth Berkelman of Emory University, a panel member, told the Washington Post.

Another panel is slated to review the study and make recommendations based on ethical issues surrounding the use of children with such a potentially hazardous vaccine.

More than 2.6 million people in the military have already received the vaccine.

While the vaccine has been tested in adults, it is unclear how it would affect children.

There is no timeline for the federal government to adopt or reject the panel’s recommendation.

In 2001, five people died and more than a dozen became ill after anthrax was sent in letters through the mail. Since that attack, the federal government has spent $1.1 billion stockpiling the vaccine.

The panel maintains that not testing the vaccine on children now would put them at a greater risk later in the event of another attack.

"Protecting children still stands, for me, among the most important responsibilities that we have as a nation," Dr. Nicole Lurie, a member of the board and assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Public Health Service, told the Associated Press.