Public would participate in mass antibiotic prophylaxis program, study says

A recent poll shows that the U.S. public would most likely be willing to participate in a mass antibiotic prophylaxis program in the case of an inhalation anthrax attack, despite some fears.

The poll, conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in the journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, found that most respondents would readily pick up medical countermeasures at dispensing sights, according to CIDRAP News.

The phone survey was conducted in December 2009 among more than 1,000 adults, along with approximately 500 others from each of three metropolitan areas that were affected by the 2001 anthrax attacks - New York City, Washington, D.C., and Trenton/Mercer County, N.J.

The interview consisted of 50 questions, including a scenario that involved a bioterrorist attack from an identifiable source. The attack in the scenario would require a mass antibiotic prophylaxis response from the government within a 48 hour period, CIDRAP News reports.

Those who reported to be hesitant to pick up the antibiotics noted several major fears, including their safety in crowds during an attack and their lack of trust in government agencies.

The poll researchers said that the survey was conducted around the time when there was controversy surrounding the delay of the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine.

Several other challenges to public health officials were identified, including the role of misinformation about the disease, the belief that regular doctors’ offices and pharmacies would be able to stock the countermeasures and a general wait and see approach to taking the pills.