AMA, AAFP Urge Caution on Mass Voluntary Smallpox Vaccination Policy
Several medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians, are expressing concern about the use of the smallpox vaccine after federal health officials last week announced that they favor providing the vaccine to the general public, the New York Times reports. Noting that the smallpox vaccine has a greater risk of serious side effects compared with other vaccines, the medical groups support a more conservative inoculation plan. The groups have endorsed a government plan outlined in June that called for vaccinating health workers and first responders. Under those guidelines, if an outbreak occurred, a "ring vaccination" strategy would be employed. In a statement released yesterday, the AMA said that the potential health risks associated with the vaccine must be "weighed against" the risks of a bioterrorist attack. The group also questioned who would take responsibility for the deaths and injuries resulting from mass vaccination. The AAFP has expressed a "similar view," and American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology spokesperson James Baker "urged restraint" in considering mass vaccination because of the vaccine's risks to people with certain skin conditions, such as eczema and atopic dermatitis (Grady, New York Times, 10/8).
The cover story in the current issue of Newsweek examines U.S. preparedness for a potential smallpox attack. Newsweek reports that "there is no question we're vulnerable" to a smallpox attack, a situation that has prompted the Bush administration to make "biosecurity" a "high priority." Newsweek examines several plans proposed by federal health officials, such as a plan that would include a voluntary mass vaccination of U.S. residents in the event of smallpox attack and a plan announced on Friday that would allow the general population to receive vaccinations before an outbreak. The article also includes information about the "origins and evolution" of the plans from the officials who developed the recommendations (Cowley, Newsweek, 10/14).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.