Anthrax Vaccine

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Anthrax Vaccine


Generic Name
anthrax vaccine

How It Works

Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis.

Why It Is Used

In response to the use and possible future use of anthrax as a biological weapon, the following recommendations have been made:1, 3

  • Only people at high risk of exposure should be given the anthrax vaccine. This may include certain laboratory workers, people who work with imported animals where preventive standards are lacking (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 vaccine is given in a series of six shots over 18 months. Each year a booster dose is given.

How Well It Works

The only known way to protect against anthrax before a person is exposed is to get the anthrax vaccine.2

Side Effects

Potential side effects of the vaccine include fever, headache, joint pain, and fatigue.

Even though serious allergic reactions are rare with the anthrax vaccine, call your doctor right away if you have trouble breathing, a high fever, or anything unusual after having the shot.

A person who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine should not get another dose.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Pregnant women should be vaccinated only if absolutely necessary.

For more information, go to Health Canada's Emergency Preparedness Web site at You can also check updated recommendations from the United States government on the Web site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  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. Available online:
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (2005). Anthrax. Available online:
  3. 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.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised August 24, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.