Will Parents Volunteer Their Kids to Test an Anthrax Vaccine?

A group of federal advisers is endorsing testing the anthrax vaccine in children. Now the Obama administration has to decide whether to move forward with the risky prospect of injecting healthy children with a potentially dangerous vaccine.

But even if they do: who's going to line up with their child?

There are a slew of ethical questions associated with testing any drug on children, which is rarely done and has been ruled unlawful in certain cases by a U.S. judge. When it comes to something as risky as the anthrax vaccine, the questions are only magnified. The move to mandate the anthrax vaccine for military personnel (more than 2.5 million members of the armed forces have received it) remains controversial because of its harsh side effects. So it's hard to believe anyone would O.K. testing it in kids.

Yet the National Biodefense Science Board has because they say the threat of an anthrax attack is high enough. And without knowing the vaccine is safe in advance, doctors would have to experiment with dosing in the face of an actual outbreak.

My biggest questions is: who will allow their child to receive an experimental anthrax vaccine? We can't even convince parents to use vaccines that are proven to be safe and effective (meanwhile whooping cough and measles are on the rise). Good luck finding a decent sample size for and unknown, potentially dangerous one. [Washington Post; Image: Shutterstock/Sergej Khakimullin]


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