Anthrax infections are typically rare in humans and are usually found in cattle. Individuals in animal husbandry, rearing cattle are at risk of exposure to anthrax and may require protection in the form of vaccination. Vaccines, like medications come with the possibility of undesirable outcomes and it is necessary for individuals to be aware of the possible fallouts. Vaccines are also not suitable for all, with some categories of users, advised to avoid particular types of vaccines. Following subsections offer a detailed look at the vaccine and the possible anthrax vaccine side effects to help readers identify and pre-empt undesirable outcomes.

Overview of the infection

Anthrax infection refers to skin infections caused by the bacteria, from contaminated spores, present in soil, water, animals and plants. Exposure to animals could arise from contact with the hide of cattle, from meat and the wool of sheep. Anthrax infections are not known to pass on from one infected human to another infected human. The possibility of anthrax infections is high geographical locations where there is lack of adequate veterinary care, resulting in unvaccinated animals. The disease is serious in nature and could also lead to eventual death if left untreated. Exposure through contact with contaminated substances or spores is mainly by touching, inhaling or eating.

Overview of the vaccine

The vaccine is administered to individuals either before or after exposure to the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. This could be either suspected exposure or confirmed exposure and the vaccine, available as an injection is administered either subcutaneously or intramuscularly. The vaccine is extracted from cultures of a particular strain of lab-grown bacteria. The vaccine works with the usual mechanism of action of vaccines, whereby the body produces antibodies to offer protection against the infection.

Three dosages are administered, with fixed gaps between each. For instance, the second dose is administered one month after the first and the third is given six months after the first. Whenever the vaccine is administered intramuscularly, there is a possible risk of bruising, and individuals with a history of bruising may choose to receive the vaccine subcutaneously. In the event that the vaccine is administered subcutaneously, the dosage increases to 4, with a gap of two weeks, four weeks and six months. Booster doses of the vaccine are also generally given after a year and one year and a half, and wherever required, annual booster doses may also be administered.

Precautions to be taken prior to starting the medication

It is important to rule out any possible adverse effects of the vaccine or medicines by understanding the possible outcomes. For instance, there is the possibility of individuals ending up with allergic reactions, and it is therefore necessary to rule out any chances on one. Prior incidents of allergic reactions are a marker of possible allergies in the future. This could include allergies to food products, substances used in dyes, or preservatives, apart from animal dander.

Insufficient data about pediatric patients

Other precautions include the possibility of adverse reactions in certain categories of people. Medicines and vaccines typically undergo human trials and results are documented to understand the outcomes on children, geriatric patients and individuals with certain conditions. In some instances, trials are not conducted specifically on these categories of individuals, and it is therefore necessary to know about this before taking one. In the case of anthrax vaccines, adequate studies have not been conducted to determine efficacy or safety on pediatric patients.

Risk to fetus

Similarly, enough studies have not been conducted to determine the risk to the fetus, f the vaccine is administered to pregnant women. It is therefore necessary to apply the typical probable benefits versus risks comparison to determine if it is a good choice to undergo vaccination. This comparison typically weighs the desired outcomes against the probability of risks. In certain circumstances, the condition may demand vaccination to prevent it from turning serious, and in such conditions, vaccination is chosen. Under different circumstances, the condition may not be serious enough, and considering the possibility of risks, vaccination may not be chosen.

Not suitable for elderly patients

The vaccine is not prescribed or recommended for use in patients above the age of 65. Patients planning to undergo vaccination are to bear this in mind and ensure that the vaccine is administered only to those below the age of 65.

Anthrax vaccine side effects – possible drug interactions

Medicines and vaccines come with the possibility of interactions when taken along with other medications. This could include prescription medications, vaccines, OTC products, herbal formulations, supplements, and alternate medicine therapies. Interactions are generally of three types, and depending on the possibility of each, suitable remedial measures may be initiated. The first type of interaction results in an increase in potency, beyond the desired outcomes of either of the two medications. The second type is a decrease in efficacy or potency, below the desired outcome of either of the two medications. The last type is aggravation of side effects of either or both of the medications.

Remedial measures include a change in one of the two conflicting medications, to prevent the interaction. This is decided by identifying medications that are most important and least important, in terms of desired outcomes. In the event that both the medications or equally important and cannot be stopped, even temporarily, specialists opt for methods to minimize the interaction. This is achieved by staggering the time of intake and by altering the dosage, so as to ensure that the effects are relatively minimal, and manageable. The following list of medications or products that interact with the vaccine is a short compilation and is not exhaustive in nature.

Patients on cancer therapies are also to seek explicit recommendations about use of the vaccine, as drugs and therapies involving radiation are likely to have an impact on the immune system.  Any treatment that has an effect on the immune system may have an impact on the vaccine. This includes corticosteroids, like prednisone, or medications like cyclosporine typically given to prevent organ rejection in transplant recipients. Other immunosuppressants that could have an impact include tacrolimus, that also works by weakening the immune system.

Possible anthrax vaccine side effects

All medications come with possible undesirable effects, and vaccines are no exceptions. Anthrax vaccines could trigger undesirable effects in individuals. The effects could either be minimal, mild or moderate in nature, and the effects could also be serious or adverse in nature. Mild effects are relatively common in terms of occurrence and do not necessarily require medical intervention. The effects are likely to resolve naturally, without any reason for concern. However, serious effects are different, and could be a cause for concern. These effects are typically rare in occurrence and may require some kind of medical attention, depending on the condition. It is necessary identify these effects in time, based on symptoms and seek medical intervention.

There is another category of patients who do not experience any kind of effects whatsoever. This essentially means that all users of medicines or vaccines are not likely to be affected, and effects are typically experienced by a section of users only. Here is a short compilation of some of the known effects of the vaccine. This is not a complete or exhaustive compilation and is intended to serve as a reference.

Patient categories at high risk of effects

The following categories of patients are at higher risk of effects than other patients. For instance, an individual who has had a history of anthrax infection is likely to experience serious effects than others. Similarly, patients with blood clotting issues are also exposed to higher risk of problems. Most vaccines are known to be relatively lesser effective on individuals with a weak immune system. This also applies to patients who have received organ transplants and are on medications to manage the immune system. As the immune system tends to reject the newly transplanted organ, medications are administered to lower the immune response. In such instances, vaccines also will work with lesser efficacy as vaccines work by triggering the body’s natural immune response system. When the response is lowered with medications, the vaccines mechanism of action gets affected, resulting in reduced effectiveness.

Frequently occurring effects

Anaphylaxis is a possible serious effect that may be experienced among users who have allergic reactions. This effect needs to be treated at the earliest, on observing tell-tale symptoms. For instance, outbreak of rashes, any abnormal or new itching sensation, and swelling either in the tongue or the throat need to be viewed as possible symptoms. Any difficulty in breathing after the vaccine has been administered has to be regarded as a strong symptom that needs urgent medical attention. Other possible allergic reactions may be experienced by individuals with a history of allergies to latex or natural rubber. This is attributed to the stopper in the vial containing the vaccine.

Pain at the site of injection, or any reddish hue may be experienced normally. This could also be felt as some kind of tenderness and may impact possible movements. This is a normal reaction and is not a cause for worry.  Effects that are not as common include possible swelling, of the lymph glands in the neck or the armpit or the groin area. This could be painful and tender to the touch. Headaches and possible pain in the muscles are other commonly experienced effects of the vaccine. Tingling sensations, similar to pin pricks and needles may also be experienced, apart from numbness and itching sensations. The color of the urine may change, and may appear dark in color. An overall warm feeling may also be experienced by some, after the vaccine. The possibility of loss of hair or thinning of hair cannot be ruled out entirely, but this effect is restricted only to a small section of users.

Reddish appearance may sometimes extend to the face, the neck and the upper portion of the chest, though this is also not commonly reported. Muscles may feel stiff, with some users reporting spasms and cramps. Individuals may also experience difficulty in falling asleep, and this may in turn impact routines.

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