Vaccine to Prevent Anthrax

Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) protects against anthrax. It does not contain any anthrax bacteria and cannot give people anthrax. It is not typically available to the general public. The vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for two different situations: routine occupational use (before possible exposure) and post-event emergency use (after possible exposure).

Routine occupational use (before possible exposure)

Anthrax vaccine is approved for use in three groups of adults 18 to 65 years of age who may be at risk of coming in contact with anthrax because of their job.

These at-risk adults will receive the vaccine before exposure:

  • check iconCertain laboratory workers who work with anthrax
  • check iconSome people who handle animals or animal products, such as some veterinarians
  • check iconSome members of the United States military

To build up protection against anthrax, these groups should get 5 shots of anthrax vaccine over 18 months. To stay protected, they should get annual boosters. The shots are injected into a muscle (intramuscular).

People who should NOT get the anthrax vaccine for routine occupational use include:

  • times iconPregnant women.
  • times iconAnyone who has had a serious allergic reaction to a previous dose of anthrax vaccine.
  • times iconAnyone who has a severe allergy to any component of the anthrax vaccine.
  • times iconAnyone with severe allergies, including allergy to latex, should tell their doctor.

Anyone with a moderate or severe illness might be asked by their doctor to wait until they recover to get the vaccine. People with mild illness can usually be vaccinated.

More Information

Post-event emergency use (after possible exposure)

In November 2015, FDA also approved the vaccine for use after exposure to anthrax for people 18 through 65 years of age. In certain situations, such as a bioterrorist attack involving anthrax, anthrax vaccine might be recommended to prevent the disease in people after they have been exposed to the anthrax germs.

If this were to happen, people who were exposed would get 3 shots of anthrax vaccine over 4 weeks plus a 60-day course of antibiotics.

During an emergency, the only people who should not get the anthrax vaccine after possible exposure are those who have had a serious allergic reaction to a previous dose of anthrax vaccine. These people would receive the 60-day course of antibiotics only.

Prevention and Treatment Recommendations