Frist Says in N.Y. Times Opinion Piece that Americans Should Make Own Choice on Smallpox Vaccination
Americans "[s]hould ... be allowed to make an informed choice to receive the smallpox vaccine," Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a physician and author of a book on bioterrorism, writes in a New York Times opinion piece today. Letting people choose whether to be vaccinated against smallpox "will help reduce the threat of bioterrorism," Frist writes, adding, "The more people who choose to be vaccinated, the fewer people susceptible to the disease and the more effective our efforts to contain a smallpox attack" (Frist, New York Times, 8/9). Current U.S. policy calls for "ring vaccination," in which only people who have been in contact with a smallpox patient would be vaccinated (American Health Line, 6/18). Frist writes that all military personnel at high risk of smallpox exposure should be vaccinated immediately, and health professionals and first responders should be vaccinated on a voluntary basis. He adds that "we should develop a national plan under which every American at risk could, within 36 to 48 hours after exposure to smallpox, be vaccinated." And as soon as there is enough licensed vaccine -- likely in 18 months -- "we should allow every American to make an informed choice as to whether to be vaccinated," Frist writes. Although two to four of every million people vaccinated will die, Frist concludes that the "threat of a smallpox attack outweighs the risks of providing smallpox vaccinations to a well-informed public" (New York Times, 8/9).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.