Anthrax Vaccine


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:footnote 1

  • 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.footnote 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 the Public Health Agency of Canada's Emergency Preparedness website at You can also check updated recommendations from the United States government on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at



  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Use of anthrax vaccine in the United States: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), 2009. MMWR, 59(RR-6): 1–30. Available online:
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2005). Anthrax. Available online:


Current as of: December 9, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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