Vaccine offered to people possibly exposed to anthrax at Fla. tabloid publisher

Sunday, December 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ People possibly exposed to anthrax at the Boca Raton offices of tabloid publisher American Media Inc. were offered a vaccine taken from military supplies Saturday, but there were few takers.

Anthrax contamination at the office complex was discovered in early October, when a photo editor died of the inhaled form of the disease after apparently coming into contact with tainted mail. A second employee was infected but lived.

Of more than 1,100 AMI employees and contractors to whom the three-shot series was offered, three people decided to take the vaccine, Tim O'Connor, spokesman for the Palm Beach County health department, said Saturday. Nearly three dozen Boca Raton postal workers and investigators who had been inside the building were also offered the vaccine.

Saturday, 59 people eventually came to the clinic and were offered a 40-day supply of antibiotics in addition to the military vaccines; 40 people decided to go on the antibiotics.

People were told it would be their only opportunity to start the series of vaccination shots, which the federal government is offering to people who have been in anthrax-contaminated buildings. The first shots were given to congressional employees in Washington.

The health of those who opt for the shots will be tracked for two years.

The vaccine, taken from military stores, isn't considered useful if given more than two weeks after a person has stopped taking a lengthy course of antibiotics, said Michelle Bonds, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Saturday was the end of that two-week window for AMI employees and others who were supposed to have finished a 60-day round of the antibiotic Cipro on Dec. 8.

AMI publishes six supermarket tabloids, including The National Enquirer, Globe and Weekly World News.