Report says U.S. needs to increase countermeasure access

The Bipartisan WMD Terrorist Research Center released the Bio-Response Report Card on Wednesday stating that the U.S. is unprepared to respond to a large-scale biological attack.

The report said that while significant progress has been made to defend against smallpox and anthrax, there are still insufficient quantities of medical countermeasures in the event of an attack.

Inhalation anthrax, which is more deadly than smallpox, could kill 90 percent of those infected if left untreated. The WMD Center reports that the Strategic National Stockpile currently only has enough oral anthrax antibiotics to provide 60 million people with a 60 day course of treatment.

The stockpile has enough anthrax vaccine to protect 4.4 million adults, with additional doses contracted for delivery. The government recently announced that it is acquiring 44.75 million doses of BioThrax to add to the stockpile. BioThrax, manufactured by Emergent BioSolutions, is the only anthrax vaccine licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Studies are underway to determine the means further increasing the supply of this anthrax vaccine, according to the report.

The WMD Center report also recognized the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices pertaining to pre-event anthrax vaccination for civilian first responders, including National Guard personnel who could potentially be involved in a post-anthrax attack response. The reports says that this could improve local preparedness efforts and could reduce the need to distribute antibiotics. ACIP determined that first responder organizations may offer their workers voluntary pre-event vaccination. Pre-event vaccination also adds the additional advantage of providing protection against antibiotic resistant anthrax.