Anthrax vaccine offered to Boca tabloid workers©Associated Press
December 23, 2001
DELRAY BEACH -- People possibly exposed to anthrax at the Boca Raton offices of tabloid publisher American Media Inc. were offered a vaccine taken from military supplies Saturday, but there were few takers.
Of more than 1,000 people to whom the three-shot series was offered, "We have one person taking advantage of the vaccine, and one who says he is going to," Tim O'Connor, spokesman for the Palm Beach County Health Department, said Saturday.
The offer was made Thursday to about 1,100 AMI employees and contractors, 30 Boca Raton postal workers and all investigators who had been inside the building, where anthrax contamination was discovered in early October.
They also were offered a 40-day supply of antibiotics Saturday, and Palm Beach County's Delray Beach clinic was opened Saturday for the occasion. O'Connor said about 200 people had indicated they would take advantage of one or the other, but only 28 people had come to the clinic by midday and 26 of those wanted only the antibiotics.
The people were told it would be their only opportunity to start the series of shots, which the U.S. government is offering to people known to have been in anthrax-contaminated buildings. The first were given this week to congressional employees in Washington.
The vaccine, taken from military stockpiles, isn't considered useful if given more than two weeks after antibiotics are stopped, said Michelle Bonds, a spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Saturday marked the end of that two-week window for AMI employees and others who were supposed to have finished an earlier 60-day round of Cipro on Dec. 8.
Bonds said the vaccine wouldn't be offered to people who are mildly or severely ill or those who have had inhalation anthrax. That would exclude people with the flu and Ernesto Blanco, one of two AMI employees infected by the bacteria. Blanco lived; photo editor Robert Stevens died.
The health of those who opt for the shots will be tracked for two years to watch for possible ill effects.
The latest chapter in the unprecedented story of anthrax-by-mail began Thursday when 48 Capitol Hill staff members became the first bioterrorism targets to receive the vaccine.
It is normally approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration for use in people only before exposure to the germ -- combat troops, those who work with anthrax germs in laboratories and those who might handle potentially infected animal hides or furs in factories.
The CDC said there are three groups who "should seriously consider" accepting the offer: those who touched an anthrax-tainted letter, those who worked in a place where someone developed inhalational anthrax and those who worked in a place heavily contaminated with anthrax spores. AMI fits all three groups.
Elsewhere, CDC workers are in Washington and New Jersey counseling postal workers about the vaccinations and encouraging them to get back on antibiotics if they didn't complete the 60-day treatment, said Llelwyn Grant, a CDC spokesman.
CDC officials also will be working with Postal Service managers in New York and Connecticut on Wednesday to talk about the options for workers, including the vaccination program, Grant said.
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From the AP