In 2001, anthrax spores were deliberately sent to multiple targets via the U.S. Postal System. In response to the attacks, several emergency responders began a grassroots advocacy program called Project Equal Immunization Policies & Practices (EQUIPP). Coinciding with the Obama administration’s authorization of the First Responder Anthrax Preparedness Act, Project EQUIPP pushed for the deployment of surplus anthrax vaccine doses stored in the Strategic National Stockpile. This idea was met with bipartisan Congressional support, resulting in the First Responder Vaccine Initiative (FRVI).
This voluntary pre-event vaccination program was ultimately delegated to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office, including partnerships with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and specific jurisdictions to aid in vaccine distribution. The Saint Louis Metropolitan area was selected as the first jurisdiction for this effort, partnering with the Washington University – St. Louis School of Medicine Emergency Care Research Center (ECRC). The combined educational and vaccination project was aptly named Project to Ready Emergency Personnel for an Anthrax Response Event (PREPARE). By preemptively receiving the anthrax vaccine, emergency responders can protect themselves against anthrax and ensure they are able to safely respond to an anthrax incident. Since 2019, PREPARE has educated over 1600 emergency services personnel and has more than 1100 participants currently receiving the vaccination series. This webinar discusses the history, implementation, and impact of the FRVI and PREPARE efforts.