King, Pascrell urge colleagues to pass the First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act

Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) called on members of Congress on Monday to direct the secretary of Homeland Security to make anthrax vaccines and antimicrobials available to emergency response providers as part of H.R. 1300, the First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act.

"An attack using aerosolized Bacillus Anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is a serious mass casualty threat," the two said in a letter to their colleagues. "According to a former chief medical officer and assistant secretary for the Office of Health Affairs, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 'A successful anthrax attack could potentially expose hundreds of thousands of people, and cause illness, death, fear, societal disruption and economic damage. Even a small scale attack…will result in deaths, panic and economic losses, making this a weapon of mass disruption as well as destruction.'"

The letter said that passing H.R. 1300 would enhance the nation's capability to fight a wide-area anthrax attack by providing pre-vaccinated responders with the ability to immediately and confidently deploy countermeasures with the protections needed for such activities.

"Our bill would make surplus and short shelf life/expiring anthrax vaccines and antimicrobials from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) available for emergency response providers on a voluntary basis," King and Pascrell said. "Instead of disposing expiring SNS anthrax vaccines and antimicrobials, they would be made available to interested first responders.

"The bill further directs DHS Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis to conduct risk analysis and assessments of the threat posed by an anthrax-related act of terror. Additionally, the bill authorizes an 18-month pilot program for DHS to administer surplus and expiring anthrax vaccines and antimicrobials to emergency response providers on a voluntary basis."