Expert decries potential burning of anthrax vaccine

Colonel Randall Larsen, USAF (Ret.), a bioterrorism expert, has decried potential plans by the federal government to burn a large stockpile of the anthrax vaccine.

Larsen, in an opinion posted on, says that the government intends to destroy 6.9 million doses of the life-saving vaccine,  or $150 million worth. He compared the action to turn-of-the-century robber barons using $100 dollar bills to light their cigars.

“That will be your tax dollars (150,000 $100 bills) going up in smoke,” Larsen writes on “If the story ended there, it would be troubling, but it gets much worse.”

Larsen asserted that because anthrax is one of the likeliest agents to be used in a bioterrorism attack, the destruction of the vaccine doses will reduce America’s capability to respond, making the country less secure.

Larsen did, however, concede that not everything stays effective forever.

“Everything the federal government buys to defend us, whether it is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, a stealthy bomber, main battle tank, or vaccines and therapeutics have an expected life span,” Larsen says.

Larsen was the executive director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism and the former chairman of the Department of Military Strategy and Operations at the National War College He is currently the CEO of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Center.

There are other options available, Larsen says.

“Could the shelf life be extended?” Larsen asks. “Is it really ineffective or dangerous to use one day after its expiration date? Is the science that exact?

“Could we keep the vaccine in the stockpile to use in case of emergency?”

Even if a vaccine that is one or two years beyond its shelf-life is only 80 percent effective, that 80 percent would be better than having no vaccine at all, Larsen asserts.

Finally, Larsen argues on that before its destruction, the vaccine could at least be offered to first-responders on a volunteer basis.

“Wouldn’t it also be helpful if public health and medical personnel, police and fire fighters are protected and able to respond during a crisis?” Larsen writes.

The House Homeland Security Committee introduced a bill this spring that called for an investigation into option three, but the legislation has since stalled.

“Bottom line: It appears as if the federal government is fiddling while good vaccine will be burning and America will be less prepared,” Larsen writes.