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No anthrax vaccine testing on children — for now

/ Source: news services

It will be a while longer before the government decides whether to test the anthrax vaccine in children.

A government advisory board said Friday that ethical issues need to be resolved — but if that is accomplished the vaccine could be tested in children to be sure it's safe and to learn the proper dose in case it's needed in a terrorist attack.

Because of concerns that terrorists might use the potentially deadly bacteria, the government has stockpiled the vaccine, which has been widely tested on adults but never on children.

The question is whether to do tests now so that doctors would know if children's immune systems respond to the shots well enough to signal protection.

Bioethicist Art Caplan says this is a non-issue because even if the government recommended the vaccine test, parents aren't likely to line up for the opportunity.

"Unless the government is willing to scare the living daylights out of parents, few will bring their kids in to act as subjects in a study," said Caplan, chair of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and contributor to

And if no testing happens -- and anthrax is used against us, Caplan argues, parents in affected areas likely will take the risk of vaccinating their kids anyway, even if there are some safety issues.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.