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Anthrax Disease & Vaccine Information

Find the Information You Need to Make an Informed Vaccine Decision
Updated June 07, 2024

Below are brief introductions to anthrax disease and the anthrax vaccine with links to more information. Scroll down for a list of QUICK FACTS that provide a summary overview of key facts for the disease and the vaccine.

Anthrax: The Disease

Anthrax is a serious bacterial infection caused by Bacillus anthracis. It is not contagious from person to person. The disease most commonly occurs in animals such as cattle, sheep, horses, and goats after they graze in areas contaminated with spores of B. anthracis.  The body wastes and carcasses of infected animals, or flies that eat infected carcasses, and contaminated hides and meat are all sources of anthrax. Individuals who work with animals or animal by-products or are exposed to contaminated soil are at highest risk of contracting anthrax.    There are four types of anthrax – Cutaneous (Skin), gastrointestinal, inhalation, and injection. Cutaneous anthrax is the most common and least deadly form of anthrax. This form occurs when spores enter the body through openings in the skin, such as scrapes or cuts. After exposure, infection generally occurs within one to seven days. Learn more about Anthrax…

Anthrax: The Vaccine

There are two anthrax vaccines approved for use by the FDA for use in the US.

Biothrax anthrax vaccine, manufactured by Emergent BioDefense Operations Lansing LLC, is FDA approved for use in persons between 18 and 65 years of age who are at high risk of exposure to anthrax. It can also be used in this population after a potential or confirmed exposure to anthrax but must be given in conjunction with antibiotic therapy.  CYFENDUS adjuvanted anthrax vaccine, manufactured by Emergent Product Development Gaithersburg Inc., is FDA approved for use in persons 18 through 65 years following a confirmed or suspected exposure to anthrax. This vaccine must be given in conjunction with antibiotic therapy.  No anthrax vaccine is approved for persons under 18 or over 65 years of age. 

NVIC strongly recommends reading the vaccine manufacturer product information insert before receiving any vaccine, including the anthrax vaccine. Package inserts are published by drug companies making vaccines and list important information about vaccine ingredients, reported health problems (adverse events) associated with the vaccine, and directions for who should and should not get the vaccine. Learn more about Anthrax vaccine…

Anthrax & Anthrax Vaccine Quick Facts


  • Anthrax is a rare but serious bacterial infection. It can enter the bloodstream from a cut in the skin, inhaling anthrax spores into the lungs, swallowing anthrax spores, or injecting anthrax contaminated heroin. The anthrax bacteria is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person. 
  • The most common way to become infected is through the skin by direct exposure to an infected animal, animal waste and by-products, or contaminated soil. Veterinarians, farmers, or researchers working with animals are at higher risk of being infected by anthrax.   Continue reading quick facts…

Anthrax Vaccine

  • Biothrax anthrax vaccine is FDA approved for use in adults aged 18 through 65 years who are considered high-risk for anthrax exposure.  These include U.S. military members deployed to areas of the world considered high-risk, veterinarians or persons handling animals or animal byproducts, and laboratory workers working with the anthrax bacterium ( anthracis)  CYFENDUS adjuvanted anthrax vaccine is FDA approved for use in individuals 18 through 65 years with a known or suspected anthrax exposure, to be given in combination with antibiotics.  Biothrax and CYFENDUS anthrax vaccines can cause death to an unborn baby if administered to a pregnant woman.  
  • Reported mild to moderate anthrax vaccine reactions include local swelling, pain, and redness at the injection site, fever, chills, and nausea that resolve without permanent damage. Severe anthrax vaccine reaction reports include autoimmune and brain dysfunction, chronic disabling fatigue, persistent headaches, severe joint pain and crippling arthritis, numbness, and muscle weakness, paralysis, brain inflammation, seizures, and permanent memory loss, and death.     Continue reading quick facts...

NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about anthrax and the anthrax vaccine by reading all sections in the table of contents, which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.

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