CDC Backs Smallpox Vaccination Program Expansion Despite Panel’s Advice
Contrary to a CDC advisory panel's recommendation against expanding the national smallpox vaccination program, CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding yesterday said that states should move forward with phase two of the campaign, which aims to inoculate 10 million first responders, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Wahlberg, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/27). The first phase of the vaccination program, which aimed to vaccinate 500,000 health care workers in its first weeks, began in January (California Healthline, 6/20). So far, 38,000 health care workers have received the inoculations; in the military's campaign, which is separate from the national campaign, more than 450,000 personnel have been inoculated (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/27). The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices last week adopted a draft resolution saying that beginning the second phase of the federal smallpox vaccination program would not be wise because the risk of giving the vaccine to people with potential heart problems is unknown. A Maryland woman and a Florida woman -- both health workers -- and a 55-year-old National Guard member died of heart attacks after receiving the vaccine. At least 21 instances of heart inflammation have been reported among vaccinated health care workers, and similar reports have come from the military vaccination program. ACIP suggested that studies on the link between the vaccine and heart problems be completed before proceeding to phase two (California Healthline, 6/20). Gerberding said that CDC officials "respect the ACIP perspective, but we also recognize that we still have work to do," adding that the program is necessary, given the threat of bioterrorism. Florida, Hawaii and New York City have already begun the second phase of vaccination campaign (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/27).
NPR's "Talk of the Nation/Science Friday" today features a discussion of the smallpox vaccination program in the first hour of the program. Guests on the program will include Gerberding; Gregory Poland, ACIP member; Brian Strom, chair of the Institute of Medicine's Committee on Smallpox Vaccination Program Implementation, director of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine's Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and professor of biostatistics and epidemiology, medicine and pharmacology; and Department of Defense Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs William Winkenwerder (Flatow, "Talk of the Nation/Science Friday," NPR, 6/27). The full segment will be available online after 6 p.m. ET.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.