Bush Close to Ordering Smallpox Vaccinations for Military, Delays Decision on Civilian Policy
Senior Bush administration officials said yesterday that President Bush is close to ordering the inoculation of nearly 500,000 soldiers, but safety concerns have caused him to "hesitate" to begin a full-scale civilian vaccination program, the Washington Post reports. Under the military's vaccination plan, developed by officials from the Pentagon, more than one-third of the nation's 1.4 million active duty soldiers will receive the vaccine. The first round of shots will go to "medical specialists" and emergency support troops, followed by those troops set to be deployed to the Middle East or other areas where the risk of combat is considered high (Graham/Allen, Washington Post, 11/15). Under the military vaccination program, troops would be required to receive the shots (Lindlaw, AP/Long Island Newsday, 11/15). While it is expected that the administration will move ahead with that plan, Bush will likely delay a decision on recommendations from some senior health officials to make the vaccine available in stages to all U.S. citizens, beginning with approximately 500,000 health care workers. According to the Post, "serious risks" associated with the vaccine -- it causes "life-threatening complications" in an estimated 15 of every one million people receiving it for the first time -- have been a "major stumbling block" for Bush and his advisers. According to the Post, Bush is concerned about the safety of the vaccine in the "oldest and youngest vaccine recipients," reservations that are not relevant to the military plan (Washington Post, 11/15). According to AP/Long Island Newsday, the possibility of war with Iraq -- which U.S. intelligence officials believe possesses samples of smallpox -- has also played a part in Bush's decision (AP/Long Island Newsday, 11/15). The Post reports that Bush's final decision will come within two weeks and could be made in less than two days (Washington Post, 11/15).
PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" yesterday reported on government plans to respond to a smallpox attack and the potential side effects of a vaccination program. The segment includes comments from Dr. James Bentley, president of the American Hospital Association; William Broadus, commander of a volunteer rapid response unit in Prince Georges County, Md.; Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC; Dr. Dan Lucey, a bioterrorism consultant at a Washington, D.C., hospital; Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia; and Ouinette Willingham, captain of a Washington, D.C. volunteer response team (Dentzer, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 11/14). A transcript of the segment is available online. In addition, the segment is available in RealPlayer Audio online.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.