Smallpox vaccine plan begins with health workers

Sunday, September 15, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Smallpox vaccine would be offered to hospital emergency workers and slowly extended to other doctors, nurses, police and, eventually, the general public, under a Bush administration plan in the final stages of development.

The plan would begin vaccinations for those at the greatest risk of contacting a patient with the highly contagious disease. That includes infectious disease specialists and emergency room personnel, including doctors, nurses, technicians, even security officers working at hospitals and clinics, according to officials familiar with the administration's planning.

This first group probably will include more than 1 million people, one official said, although precise numbers won't be known until states are given guidelines and determine how many people they cover.

The vaccinations carry risk of serious side effects, including death, so authorities estimate that only about a third to a half of those offered vaccinations will take them. In the end, they believe that several hundred thousand -- maybe half a million -- will wind up getting the vaccinations.

Officials cautioned that plans still could change. They expect to announce a decision by the end of the month.

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