Anthrax has entered the spotlight as a prime and effective weapon in biological warfare. Military personnel and those at risk of infection from animals have to take an anthrax vaccine. To learn more about the common and rare adverse effects of this vaccine, scroll below.
Anthrax is a contagious, life-threatening infection, caused by bacterium Bacillus anthracis. These bacterium are actually soil-based in the form of spores. These spores are extremely hardy and are capable of surviving in the most extreme climates, for decades on end. Once they attach themselves to an organism, they multiply at an alarming rate, to take over cells and hamper normal body functioning. Since its occurrence is in the soil, herbivore animals that graze are highly vulnerable to an anthrax infection. The bacterium enter the body through ingestion or inhalation. It is highly contagious. If a predator eats an infected animal, it can get infected, and spread the germ to other animals that come in contact with it, by inhaling the spores, which attach themselves to skin.
Humans can contract anthrax through skin lesions and cuts, by eating an infected animal’s flesh and by inhaling the spores. Inhalation of spores is the deadliest and most threatening form of anthrax to contract, as the spores are transported directly to the chest. They attach themselves to the lymph nodes in the chest, then multiply and migrate to other parts of the body. All the while, they generate toxins that are extremely harmful to the body’s health. The dangerous and contagious properties of the anthrax virus have made it a bioweapon of choice. To prevent any risk of infection, an anthrax vaccine has been developed. It is administered to military personnel and civilians employed in the field of bio-terrorism defense or deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea. While the vaccine is highly effective against anthrax, there have been complaints of after effects. In this article, we take a look at possible anthrax vaccine side effects and what can be done to minimize the effects.
Adverse Effects of the Anthrax Vaccine
Here are the mild and common side effects of the anthrax vaccine:
- Lump or bruise formed at the area of injection
- Redness and itching at the area of injection
- Stiffness and joint pain in the injected arm
- Mild headaches
- Feeling tired and dizzy
- Temporary breathing problems
Severe and rare side effects include:
- Allergic reaction
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever and chills
- Muscles aches and pains
- Loss of appetite
The occurrence of any side effects from getting the anthrax vaccine is higher in women than men. Any adverse reaction at the site of the injection lasts for a few days to a week. The injected area can remain swollen or inflamed for 2-3 weeks. The occurrence of severe effects is rare.
Anthrax Vaccine Schedule
The vaccine is administered in the form of a subcutaneous (just under the skin) injection. A total of 5 doses must be given over a course of 2 years. After the first dose, the secondary doses are administered after a period of 4 weeks, 6 months, 12 months and 18 months respectively. The dosage is supplemented with annual boosters. Certain individuals are at a higher risk of exhibiting side effects. The groups that should be cautious with this vaccine are:
- Pregnant women
- People under 18 years of age
- Senior citizens above the age of 65
- People who are recovering from a serious illness or still sick with an illness
- Those who are allergic to latex
- Those who have recovered from a previous anthrax infection
- Those who have had an allergic reaction to the anthrax vaccine
- Those who have had allergic reactions to any vaccine
- People with a history of Guillain Barré syndrome
The anthrax vaccine is recommended for the following groups:
- Animal handlers, especially livestock animals
- Certain military personnel depending on the Department of Defense
- Research and laboratory workers
- Those working with animal products
There has been some controversy regarding the anthrax vaccine’s possible effects. But as such, there is no conclusive proof of long term anthrax vaccine side effects. Even severe and serious side effects have a limited duration. Allergic reactions are possible and symptoms will appear in a few minutes to an hour, after the shot is given. However the effectiveness of the vaccine in reducing the risk of anthrax contractions, cannot be debated. The amount of antibodies in the body after getting the vaccine, increases and increase the strength of the immune system as well. Anthrax can infect a person quickly and spread to others, on being introduced in the air. In the hands of those with evil intentions, it makes a destructive and powerful weapon. The anthrax vaccine is a strong counter-measure against this deadly bioweapon.