Anthrax Vax Test OK for Kids

A presidential bioethics commission lays out the framework for testing the anthrax vaccine in children.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Mar 19, 2013

CDC, JUDY SCHMIDTIf the risks are low, researchers could be permitted to study the anthrax vaccine in children, according to a 146-page report released today (March 19) by the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. The commission was tasked with investigating the issue in the fall of 2011 after the National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB) recommended trial of the anthrax vaccine in children.

“This was one of the most difficult ethical reviews that any bioethics commission has ever conducted,” the commission's chair, Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, told ScienceInsider. On one hand, understanding appropriate usage and dosage of such a vaccine in children is critical for an effective response in the face of a bioterrorist threat. On the other hand, the study would likely expose children to certain risks and may offer no benefit to trial participants.

In weighing these considerations, the...

“Many steps would have to be taken” before launching a trial of children, Gutmann told ScienceInsider, but added that “it is not our intent to determine whether or not the government goes ahead.” The report simply provides an ethical “framework” for considering such a trial.

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