Full House to consider anthrax vaccine proposal

Rep. Peter King (R-NY)

The House Committee on Homeland Security has favorably reported a proposed bill that would make anthrax vaccines and antimicrobials available to emergency first response providers and passed it to the full House for consideration.

The First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act, H.R. 1300, would “aid our first responders and emergency management professionals, protecting them from the dangers of biological weapons,” committee chairman Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Va., said during the May 20 mark-up session when the proposed bill passed out of the committee on a voice vote.

Specifically, H.R. 1300 would amend Title V of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, essentially beefing up the federal law “to enhance prevention, protection, response, and recovery efforts with respect to an anthrax terror attack,” according to the bill’s text.

For example, the bill would establish – within a year of its enactment -- a pilot program that would make surplus anthrax vaccines from the strategic national stockpile available to emergency response providers, who, consequently, would have to voluntarily consent to receiving such a vaccine, according to bill sponsor Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

An approved May 14 amendment King offered to the bill calls for the Pre-Event Anthrax Vaccination Program for Emergency Response Providers to be overseen by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in consultation with the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who would:

• Establish any logistical and tracking systems to aid in making these vaccines available;
• Distribute disclosures regarding the associated benefits and risks to whomever would receive a vaccine; and
• Conduct outreach to educate emergency response providers about the voluntary program.
Duration of the pilot program would be at least 18 months, according to King’s amendment, and initially emergency response providers from at least two states would be selected to participate.

As of May 22, the bi-partisan bill introduced March 4 had 43 co-sponsors, with Reps. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., and Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the most recent to sign on.

Outreach continues to gather additional co-sponsors in preparation for mark-up by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which referred the bill March 6 to the House Health Subcommittee.