12/11/02 - Smallpox Plans

We've been hearing a lot about the smallpox vaccine lately, but will you be able to get it? The federal government gave the states until Tuesday to get ready to vaccinate.
Once President Bush gives the okay, emergency medical workers will get the first shot at the vaccine. Local health departments are working with state health departments on their plans. The number of vaccinations will depend on the hospital. Some states have asked for a few hundred, while larger states have asked for several thousand shots.
A single sneeze is all it takes to infect with smallpox and kill. Immunization was the answer, but there is concern that bioterrorists could undo what it took years to do: eradicate smallpox with vaccinations. That's why hospitals in every state will have a multistage plan to be prepared for a possible small pox attack. Hospitals are expected to have special smallpox response teams into effect before an attack can happen. Public health and hospital workers will be the first, then firefighters, police, and other emergency workers will be offered the shot. The public could be next.
But the government will not force those important people to take the shot. The vaccine will be voluntary, because it can be deadly, one in a million people who get the shot will get the disease. Health officials say they need volunteers to take that risk. Some people should not even be considered however. Anyone who has a skin condition, like chicken pox, severe acne, or psoriasis should not get the shot.
Neither should people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, or women who could be pregnant within a month also shouldn't get the shot. If you live with anyone who has any of these conditions, you shouldn't get the vaccine either, unless you've been exposed to the virus. Side effects of the vaccine include a high fever, body and muscle aches, or swollen lymph nodes. Vaccinations will start after President Bush makes an announcement, that's expected to happen in the near future.
A representative with the Missouri Hospital Association says they're sending background information to hospitals Tuesday, for smallpox plans.