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Vermonters Help Fight Anthrax

Vermont, Channel 3 News

An already shaky nation after 9/11 faced another challenge: anthrax. Several letters laced with the deadly bacteria killed five and caused countless anthrax scares around the country, including here in Vermont. And a letter addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, also contained anthrax. The culprit behind the biological attacks is still at large.

The events prompted the federal government to focus on the anthrax vaccine. Currently only members of the military are immunized. The vaccine has side effects and takes several doses to reach full protection.

"The old vaccine was made years ago, developed in the 1950's and it's made from a very impure combination of ingredients that come from a bacterial culture," says Dr. Beth Kirkpatrick of the University of Vermont.

Now UVM is one of twelve sites where researchers will test a newer, potentially better vaccine.

"The purpose of this vaccine is to see if we can get similar good response with a safer more effective and shorter dosing vaccine," says Kirkpatrick.

Potential study participants, like Linda DelHagen, would get the vaccine. Researchers will follow her body's response for one year. UVM hopes others will step up to test the new vaccine.

"I'm a volunteer, and I guess this is something I can do to help. I'm willing to do it. I can't always give blood, so this is something else I can do," says DelHagen.

Kirkpatrick says there's no actual anthrax in this vaccine: "No, not at all. There's no way this vaccine can cause anthrax, it's made of a bit protein called the protective antigen made of ingredients that's part of anthrax bacteria but doesn't contain the bacteria."

UVM is looking for up to fifty Vermonters who will be paid for participating. You must be healthy without any chronic illnesses, between the ages of 18 and 55 and never have had the anthrax vaccine before.