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.
- Visit U.S. Food and Drug Administrationexternal icon.
- See the Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed Vaccine Information Statement.
- See the vaccine package insert pdf icon[PDF – 165 KB/16 pages]external icon.
- If you are in the U.S. military, visit U.S. Department of Defenseexternal icon or call 1-877-438-8222.
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
- Clinical Framework and Medical Countermeasure Use During an Anthrax Mass-Casualty Incident: CDC Recommendations (2015) pdf icon[PDF – 1.24MB]
- Emergency Use Instructions (EUIs) for Antibiotic Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) of Anthrax
- Antimicrobial Treatment for Systemic Anthrax: Analysis of Cases from 1945 to 2014 Identified Through a Systematic Literature Review (2015)external icon
- Antitoxin Treatment of Inhalation Anthrax: A Systematic Review (2015)external icon
- National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System: Case Definitions (2018)
- Prevention and Treatment of Anthrax in Adults (2014): Results of CDC Expert Panels
- EID Journal (2014): Special Considerations for Pregnant and Postpartum Women
- Pediatric Anthrax Management (2014): Executive Summaryexternal icon Clinical Reportexternal icon
- CDC Guidance (2013): Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA) Post-Exposure Prioritization pdf icon[PDF – 236KB]
- Medscape Commentaries