New York Times Examines Impact of Smallpox Vaccination Plan on Public Health
The New York Times Sunday examined how local health departments are "curtail[ing] an array of services," such as children's dental examinations and tuberculosis screenings, to make resources available to meet the requirements of President Bush's smallpox vaccination plan (Altman/O'Connor, New York Times, 1/5). Under the plan, about 500,000 military personnel and as many as 10 million emergency and health care workers will receive the vaccine. In late spring or early summer of 2003, the federal government will offer the vaccine to U.S. adults in the general population not at high risk for side effects (California Healthline, 12/20/02). According to local health officials, most of the $940 million for bioterrorism preparedness allocated by Congress to HHS last May has been spent, and without more funds, workers will have to be diverted from "traditional programs" to smallpox preparations, the Times reports. Health departments will have to train workers to use the two-pronged needles used to administer the vaccine and to recognize vaccine complications. "We understand the need to be prepared, but the load for doing this is falling principally on local health departments, and we're not getting additional funding," Dr. Lloyd Novick, president of the New York State Association of County Health Officials, said. He added, "We have to transfer staff from other functions to do this. It just cannot be absorbed as business as usual. We need more resources." According to the Times, the likelihood of additional federal funding is "unclear." Dr. Ed Thompson, the CDC's deputy director for public health programs and services, said, "This is the price of preparedness. It's going to cause some delays and slow the progress of other public health programs, but it's something we're just going to have to realize -- that there's going to be sacrifices" (New York Times, 1/5).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.