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Anthrax Vaccine for Emergency Responders Petition

Anthrax Vaccine for Emergency Responders: Petition in support of the language of H.R. 1300 and S. 1915 to allow emergency responder access to nearly expiring anthrax vaccine from the Strategic National Stockpile

Anthrax vaccine is an important component of ensuring our providers' safety
Photo: D Mackinnon/Getty Images

Act NOW! Sign the PETITION!

Please join the 453 other citizens in signing this petition in support of the language of H.R. 1300 and S. 1915 by adding your name, town, and zip code to the form below. These bills allow emergency providers access to stockpiled anthrax vaccines.  Once enough names have been added to the petition, we will send the list of names to the U.S. Senate and to the President of the United States to ensure your voice is heard in support of the safety for all of America’s emergency first responders.







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(*NOTE: We believe in privacy and will not sell or give your name or email address to anyone and is only used to help ensure against factitious signatories to the petition. The email addresses will be stripped from the petition prior to mailing.)

Background

Federal preparedness leaders are not acknowledging the potential of antibiotic-resistant anthrax and are not fully disclosing that antibiotics and personal protective equipment (PPE) may fail to protect first responders and volunteers as they perform their duties. Moreover, these federal stewards are unwilling or unable to share the anthrax vaccine and the protection it bestows. Instead, each year millions of federal, stockpiled doses of the anthrax vaccine expire, unused.

Project EQUIPP is a grassroots advocacy campaign formed in 2007 on behalf of local emergency responders and civilian preparedness volunteers and helped to develop a consensus paper calling for pre-exposure vaccination against anthrax for emergency responders. Shortly thereafter, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) convened a working group that would ultimately revise the CDC guidance on the use of the anthrax vaccine. These CDC Recommendations were voted upon and approved in 2009. In its Notice to Readers published in MMWR in July 2010, the CDC states its support of voluntary, pre-exposure immunization with the anthrax vaccine for “persons involved in emergency response activities including but not limited to, police departments, fire departments, hazardous material units, government responders, and the National Guard.”

anthrax vaccine is the only way to prevent infection from antibiotic-resistant strains of <em>B. anthracis</em>
Bacillus anthracis bacteria, which causes the disease anthrax, is depicted here in a photograph that uses the Gram stain.
Credit: Public Health Image Library (PHIL), Center for Disease Control and Prevention

H.R. 1300: The First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act

Subsequently, on July 29, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 1300, “The First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act,” sponsored by Congressman Peter King (R-NY). According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, “The First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act”…

… amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for the purpose of domestic preparedness for and collective response to terrorism, to:

  1. establish a program to provide surplus anthrax vaccines nearing the end of their labeled dates of use from the strategic national stockpile for administration to emergency response providers who are at high risk of exposure to anthrax and who voluntarily consent to such administration,
  2. distribute disclosures regarding associated benefits and risks to end users, and
  3. conduct outreach to educate emergency response providers about the program.

Requires DHS to:

  1. support homeland security-focused risk analysis and assessments of the threats posed by anthrax from an act of terror;
  2. leverage homeland security intelligence capabilities and structures to enhance prevention, protection, response, and recovery efforts with respect to an anthrax terror attack; and
  3. share information and provide tailored analytical support on threats posed by anthrax to state, local, and tribal authorities, as well as other national biosecurity and biodefense stakeholders.

Directs DHS, in coordination with HHS, to carry out a 24-month pilot program to provide anthrax vaccines to emergency response providers.
Requires DHS to:

  1. establish a communication platform and education and training modules for such program,
  2. conduct economic analysis of such program,
  3. create a logistical platform for the anthrax vaccine request process,
  4. select providers based in at least two states to participate,
  5. provide to each participating provider disclosures and educational materials regarding the benefits and risks of any vaccine provided and of exposure to anthrax, and
  6. submit annual reports on pilot program results and recommendations to improve pilot program participation.

Requires the report to include a plan for continuation of the DHS program to provide vaccines to emergency response providers.

Haz-Mat Decon suits can fail - anthrax vaccine is an important component to provider safety
Photo: AR15.com

S. 1915: The First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act

The Senate version of “The First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act,” S. 1915, was introduced on August 3, 2015, by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and has been referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs where it sits today.

Cost

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO):

H.R. 1300 would direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to provide anthrax vaccines from the Strategic National Stockpile to first responders who volunteer to receive them. Under the bill, DHS would establish a tracking system for the vaccine and would provide educational outreach for the program. The bill would direct DHS, in coordination with HHS, to establish a pilot program in at least two states to begin providing the vaccine.

Based on information provided by DHS and HHS, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 1300 would cost about $4 million over the 2016-2020 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. Enacting H.R. 1300 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.

H.R. 1300 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments.

Act NOW! Sign the PETITION!

Please click here to sign this petition in support of the language of H.R. 1300 and S. 1915 to ensure your voice is heard in support of the safety for all of America’s emergency first responders.

 

The Need for Multi-Agency Coordination

Terrorists, whether foreign or domestic, typically choose targets that have value in societies or philosophies that they oppose (LaFree, Yang, & Crenshaw, 2009). For instance, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (n.d.), al Qaeda, under the leadership of Usama bin Laden, had their sights on the World Trade Center, a symbol of global capitalism, for many years. Another example, involving domestic terrorism, is the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Michael Fortier. This target was chosen as a representation of the federal government, which McVeigh and Nichols despised, citing the incident involving federal agents in Waco, Texas, two years earlier.

Considering local community events that might be of significant interest to terrorists as potential targets, the Bristol Fourth of July Parade comes to mind. The parade is a major component of the oldest celebration of our nation’s independence and is attended by over 200,000 people each year (Fox Providence, 2011). The parade is symbolic and casualties could number in the thousands, depending on the tactics and strategies used.

There is limited egress from the Town of Bristol (see figure 1). Hope Street and Metacom Avenue are the only two roads that provide a route in and out of the town. Both lead to the Town of Warren to the north, and Hope Street converges with Metacom Avenue just before exiting the town by way of the two-lane Mount Hope Bridge to the south. Both roads are heavily trafficked during the parade inhibiting both evacuation and emergency response.

In the event that a significant terrorist act was to occur at this parade, the initial law enforcement response would be limited to those officers already on site. These officers, operating under the auspices of the Bristol Police Department would be primarily Bristol police officers with a small contingent of off-duty officers from neighboring jurisdictions. There is usually a small contingent of Rhode Island State Police troopers present. These officers would be on their own for a length of time, some of them probably affected by the attack.

Secondary responders would include both Rhode Island and Massachusetts State Police, along with mutual aid officers from approximately 10 to 15 neighboring communities; however, as people flee the initial attack, a secondary attack could create further confusion and increase the likelihood of severe traffic jams at all three evacuation points further inhibiting a timely response. Once the degree and scope of the incident is ascertained and the access difficulties are identified, it would make sense for a contingent of law enforcement to board helicopters and boats out of Providence and cross Narragansett Bay. Once on land, these officers (most likely consisting of U.S. Coast Guard, Providence Police, U.S. Border Patrol, and other federal law enforcement entities housed in Providence, RI) would rely on alternative means (walking, bicycles, ATVs, et al.) to reach the scene.

Colt State Park, to the southwest, would make a viable forward area command, allowing access for all types of vehicles, including single-engine fixed-wing aircraft. There is also an added benefit of a strong sea breeze to help direct any plume away from this forward area command post.

I have to consider that the law enforcement entities, along with the local emergency management authorities, have a working disaster plan in place for the Bristol Fourth of July parade; however, the plan must detail the fact that all resources would be overcome due to the scope and severity of such an incident; therefore, contingencies, such as stand-by assets, must be established and ready to respond by alternative means in the event that a catastrophic event were to occur, whether criminal or accidental in nature.

References

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). Famous cases & criminals. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/

Fox Providence. (2011, July 5). Inbox: Fourth of July festivities. Retrieved from http://www.foxprovidence.com/dpp/rhode_show/inbox-fourth-of-july-festivities

LaFree, G., Yang, S., & Crenshaw, M. (2009). Trajectories of terrorism: Attack patterns of foreign groups that have targeted the United States, 1970-2004. Criminology & Public Policy, 8(3), 445-473. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2009.00570.x

Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. (2008). State of Rhode Island hurricane evacuation routes: Town of Bristol [Map]. Retrieved from http://www.riema.ri.gov/preparedness/evacuation/Hevac_Bristol.pdf

Figure 1.

Bristol RI Evacuation Route
“State of Rhode Island hurricane evacuation routes: Town of Bristol” (Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, 2008).