Federal Officials To Announce National Smallpox Vaccination Plan Today
Federal officials today will introduce a "blueprint for state and local health officials" across the country detailing guidelines for inoculating every U.S. citizen "within five days" of a smallpox outbreak, the Washington Post reports. The report, which will not be made public until state health commissioners receive it, states that the CDC would begin sending out emergency teams to a suspected infection site to "confirm the outbreak and begin vaccination ... at the first hint of a smallpox case," according to officials familiar with the guidelines. The agency would then ship the vaccine and allow states to set up their own vaccination clinics. The guidelines offer suggestions to help every state decide where to locate the clinics, who would staff them, "how to counsel people on the potential risks of vaccination" and how to transport "hundreds of thousands of people through the [vaccination] process calmly and quickly" (Connolly, Washington Post, 9/23).
The new strategy "goes well beyond" earlier plans to pursue a "ring vaccination" policy, under which officials would vaccinate people in concentric circles based on their proximity to the smallpox outbreak, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Meckler, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 9/22). The new mass vaccination strategy was developed to address several simultaneous outbreaks of the disease. Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota public health expert and federal advisor, said, "This is a very detailed, thoughtful recipe for response ... for vaccinating the largest amount of people in the shortest time possible." Federal officials have not announced the cost or funding of the plan, the Post reports (Washington Post, 9/23). Officials are also expected to decide by the end of September who to "pre-vaccinate" and when to do so, a "thornier issue now under intense discussion" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 9/23). Early this month, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson sent recommendations to the White House calling for a "multiphase smallpox vaccination program" in which as many as 500,000 public health workers would receive the vaccine in preparation for a bioterrorist attack (American Health Line, 9/4).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.