November 30, 2022

Panel urges ethics study of testing anthrax vaccine on children

Informed consent and the possible threat of terrorist attack have clashed in a debate over whether an anthrax vaccine should be tested on children.

Informed consent and the possible threat of terrorist attack have clashed in a debate over whether an anthrax vaccine should be tested on children. A key US biodefence panel has recommended delaying tests of an anthrax vaccine on children until a separate study has considered its ethical implications. The vaccine in question, the only US Food and Drug Administration-licensed vaccine for anthrax, has only been tested on adults. Its effectiveness for children is still untested.

Anthrax is a prime candidate for use as a biological weapon by terrorists. In 2001 an attack killed 5 people, injured 17 and sparked nationwide panic in the US.

NBSB members voted 12-1 that if a review board addressed the ethical implications, the Health and Human Sciences Department should start planning an anthrax vaccine trial for children. “Protecting children still stands, for me, among the most important responsibilities that we have as a nation,” said Nicole Lurie of the HHS. That children can give informed consent is subject to controversy and debate, and it is uncertain whether parents will consent to the trials on behalf of their children. John Grabenstein of Merck said he supported collecting the facts on the vaccine’s effects on children before a crisis situation emerges. “Kids are recognized as a vulnerable population, and there are special requirements to protect them,” the NBSB member said. “I’d rather know what the response is before the vaccine is offered to many, many kids.” 

Opponents argue that the vaccine’s testing on children is not justified as there is not sufficient likelihood that an anthrax outbreak will occur. ~ Global Security Newswire, Oct 31

Panel urges ethics study of testing anthrax vaccine on children
Jared Yee
children
clinical trials
informed consent
terrorism