CDC To ‘Re-Energize’ Efforts To Address Smallpox Preparedness
The CDC this fall will try to "re-energize smallpox preparedness" by focusing on efforts to vaccinate civilian emergency workers and analyze each state's ability to handle an outbreak, the Dallas Morning News reports (Jacobson, Dallas Morning News, 9/8). The Bush administration's smallpox vaccination program, which started in January, aimed to vaccinate about 500,000 health workers in the program's opening weeks. The second phase of the plan was scheduled to inoculate up to 10 million health workers, firefighters, police and ambulance personnel, but the actual rates fell short of the goals because of concerns about possible negative side effects from the vaccine (California Healthline, 8/13). To address those concerns, President Bush in April signed a law providing compensation for health care workers and others who experience adverse effects from the smallpox vaccine (California Healthline, 5/1). However, only 38,377 people have been vaccinated under the plan, the Morning News reports. CDC spokesperson Von Roebuck said the agency has no "goal number" of people to be vaccinated, but the CDC will ask states to recommend ways to encourage more people to receive the vaccine. The new CDC preparedness effort also will focus on whether communities are adequately training health workers to identify and treat smallpox (Dallas Morning News, 9/8). NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday reported on the status of the smallpox vaccination plan. The segment includes comments from Dr. William Bicknell, professor of international health at Boston University's School of Public Health, and Joe Henderson, head of the CDC's bioterrorism preparedness program (Knox, "All Things Considered," NPR, 9/8). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
In related news, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has awarded a $36.1 million, four-and-a-half-year grant to biotechnology company Chimerix to develop a pill that could possibly be used to prevent smallpox infection, the New York Times reports. The small San Diego-based company has been developing a drug called CMX-001 that could be taken orally three days before or after exposure to the virus as an alternative to a vaccination. CMX-001 is a version of cidofovir, a drug made by Gilead Sciences to treat viral eye infections in people with AIDS. According to Chimerix Chief Executive George Painter, "early studies" of the CMX-001 in mice indicate that it could be effective as protection in a smallpox outbreak or a bioterrorist attack, the Times reports. The NIAID grant will cover clinical trials necessary for FDA approval, company and government officials said. Catherine Laughlin, chief of the virology branch of the NIAID, said the drug would not replace the smallpox vaccine but could be an option for unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus (Pollack, New York Times, 9/9).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.