Anthrax vaccination

Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. In response to the use and possible future use of anthrax as a biological weapon, the following recommendations have been made:1, 2

  • Only people at high risk of exposure should be given the anthrax vaccine. This may include certain lab workers, people who work with imported animals where insufficient preventive standards are in place (such as veterinarians who travel to work in other countries), and certain military personnel.
  • Anthrax vaccination is not recommended for the general public because of their low risk of infection and because supplies of the vaccine are very limited.

The anthrax vaccination is given in a series of five injections over 18 months followed by annual boosters.

Potential side effects of the vaccine include fever, headache, joint pain, and fatigue. Pregnant women should be vaccinated only if absolutely necessary.

Check updated recommendations from the United States government on the Web site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2000). Use of anthrax vaccine in the United States: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. MMWR, 49(RR-15): 1–20.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2002). Use of anthrax vaccine in response to terrorism: Supplemental recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. MMWR, 51(45): 1024–1026.

Last Updated: June 20, 2008

Author: Maria G. Essig, MS, ELS

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Christine Hahn, MD - Epidemiology

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