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Frequently Asked Questions About Biological and Chemical Agents

Can I get vaccinated against biological weapons -- anthrax, plague, smallpox, or other diseases -- that might be spread by terrorists?

No. Anthrax and smallpox vaccines are not available to the general public. Doctors and hospitals don't have vaccine supplies for these like they do for other viruses. They would be made available only in emergency situations and to those who would be most likely to be exposed.

Are there enough drugs to go around in case of a widespread outbreak or attack with chemical or biological weapons?

The government has gathered enough smallpox vaccine for everyone in the U.S. in the event of a smallpox attack. No such supply is available for anthrax (only military personnel have been getting vaccinated against anthrax). And there currently is no vaccine available for the plague, but one is being developed. Antibiotics are the first line of defense against anthrax, the plague, and most other bacterial biological threats. Antidotes can treat those who have been exposed to some chemical agents.

The CDC's National Pharmaceutical Stockpile Program sets aside a large supply of antibiotics, chemical antidotes, and other supplies in case of emergency. The goal is to send materials within 12 hours of notification to any U.S. location in the event of a terrorist attack with a biological or chemical agent. The program is a backup to local response and is deployed upon request by the states. The federal government has made arrangements with pharmaceutical companies to make large amounts of additional emergency supplies.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on November 11, 2014
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