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U.S. to decide on anthrax vaccine for kids

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- The Obama administration is mulling whether an anthrax vaccine meant to protect against a bioterrorism attack should be tested on U.S. children, officials say.

Although an anthrax vaccine has been tested in more than 2.6 million adults in the U.S. military, it has not been tested in healthy children for safety, dosage or effectiveness. Some argue it would be difficult to justify testing simply on the hypothetical possibility that there might be an attack, The Washington Post reported Monday.

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A working panel of the National Biodefense Science Board last month recommended going forward with testing on children rather than wait for a an attack and then giving the vaccine to millions and collect data. The full federal advisory board is to meet Friday to vote on it.

Anthrax is caused by a toxin-producing bacteria long considered a bioterrorist's likely choice because it is relatively easy to produce and distribute over a large area, the Post said.

In 1998, the Pentagon began a military anthrax immunization program that was challenged in court over questions about the vaccine's safety and reliability.

"There is a lot of skepticism on the part of the public about vaccines in general," Nicole Lurie, the assistant secretary in charge of bioterrorism at the Department of Health and Human Services, told the Post. "If you had a situation where a vaccine has never been given to a child, it's pretty hard to think what you could say to people about its safety and efficacy."

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