Project launched to protect first responders

Prompted by recent recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new initiative by the Institute for Biosecurity at St. Louis University to protect first responders against anthrax attacks has begun.

The new initiative, Project Equal Immunization Policies and Practices, aims to show how to effectively distribute anthrax vaccines to civilian responders before an attack, reports.

The idea of anthrax protection is not a new one. During the Gulf War, approximately 150,000 military personnel received one to two anthrax vaccines. The idea of routinely vaccinating civilians dates back to 1999, reports. The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices considered pre-exposure emergency responder vaccines well before the 2001 anthrax attacks in and around Washington D.C.

Project EQUIPP is based on a vaccination disparity that exists between local emergency responders and their federally-sponsored counterparts in the National Guard and the U.S. Department of Defense. Currently, local civilian responders like firefighters, policemen and EMT's who routinely respond to "white powder" scares are not vaccinated, according to Approximately one percent of federal agencies that respond to these events are routinely vaccinated.

Officials say Project EQUIPP is now poised for implementation and is only waiting on input from the Department of Health and Human Services on funding and access to short-dated anthrax vaccines held in the Strategic National stockpile.

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