Some health care workers to receive smallpox vaccine

By By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Dec. 12, 2002
Officials in all 50 states are making decisions about how many health care employees should receive smallpox vaccinations to protect them from potential workplace dangers.
State departments of health submitted their plans to the Centers for Disease Control this week even as President Bush prepared to announce his decision to make the vaccine available to all Americans on a voluntary basis.
Both moves are a result of heightening tension in the Middle East and growing concern about biological warfare.
Smallpox was last seen in the United States in 1949. Vaccinations for smallpox were last administered in the United States in 1972. It was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980.
Morrison said people vaccinated before 1972 are not immune from smallpox now.
State vaccination plans
A new threat looms, however, and state officials are taking smallpox seriously again.
In its plan submitted to the CDC this week, the Mississippi State Department of Health requested 5,000 to 6,000 smallpox vaccines.
When Dr. Mary Courrier, 46, started medical school in 1979, smallpox was mentioned only as a footnote in her education. Now Courrier, who specialized in preventative medicine, is state epidemiologist with the Mississippi State Department of Health.
Courrier said Mississippi will need about 5,500 smallpox vaccines from the CDC for state health department and health care workers.
This Associated Press reports that Alabama asked for up to 12,000 vaccinations; Georgia requested 5,000 to 6,000; Louisiana requested 20,000; California requested 70,000; and Michigan requested 5,000 to 7,000.
Local impact
Courrier said the health department plans to vaccinate employees who volunteer for immunization at all hospitals with emergency rooms, including Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center, Riley Hospital and Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian.
Local spokesmen said hospital administrators have not yet asked for volunteers.
She said hospital employees will be screened to make sure they can tolerate the vaccine without serious health risks to themselves or to their families.
Courrier said the number of vaccines requested from the CDC should cover about 45 people at each hospital. The health department wants to vaccinate at least two shifts-worth of emergency room staff, physicians and in-patient health care workers who would likely come in contact with a smallpox patient.
Courrier said three health department employees are going to Atlanta next week to learn how to give smallpox vaccinations at the CDC.
Further details of the state's plan for distributing smallpox vaccines will be posted on the state health department's Web site, www.msdh.state.ms.us.
SMALLPOX FACTS
1949: Last case seen in U.S.
1972: Routine inoculations end in U.S.
1980: Declared eradicated worldwide

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