First responders need vaccinations to safeguard the nation, NATO assembly told

"There are a variety of threats we have to worry about," Dr. Bob Kadlec told a NATO Parliamentary Assembly hosted by Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., last week. "Some are deliberate, some are accidental and some are natural.

To prepare for these threats, Dr. Kadlec, who served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force and served in several senior positions in the Department of Defense, said, first responders need to be vaccinated, particularly against anthrax.

"We need to offer vaccinations to selected first responders and to volunteers to do two things," Dr. Kadlec said. "One is to prepare a response to a biological event and the second is to manage our stockpile."

Vaccines need to be given out against anthrax, Kadlec said, because it is the easiest biological agent for radical groups, including Al-Qaeda, to acquire.

"It's the one with probably the greatest lethal complications and economic impact, including restoration and recovery," Dr. Kadlec said.

Dr. Kadlec said that because not everyone can be immunized against anthrax, immunizing those first responders who are most likely to come into contact with the agent gives the United States an edge in responding to a bioevent.

"We need to be prepared," Dr. Kadlec said. "If we're going to just try to predict these events, we're going to be wrong. We need to protect our first responders before an event happens."

Dr. Kadlec noted that an anthrax attack against the U.S. could conceivably require 300 million doses of anthrax vaccine, which would have to be rapidly distributed and administered.

A recent study on the viability of administering vaccines as part of a point of distribution concept utilizing the Post Office after an attack showed that it would take 45,000 people to get antibiotics delivered to every house in Manhattan.

The study says that opening a distribution center, however, antibiotics could be distributed to the entire city of New York by those same 45,000 people as bringing people to a single point is far less labor intensive.