President Bush Expected To Issue Smallpox Vaccination Decision in December
President Bush will likely make a "long-anticipated" decision on many of the details of a national smallpox vaccination plan in the weeks after Thanksgiving but will "most likely put off deciding the most sensitive question of whether the vaccine will be made available to all Americans," the Washington Post reports. Bush aides said the president favors a "phased-in inoculation" that would begin with about 500,000 military personnel and about 500,000 health care and hospital workers and later would extend to as many as 10 million emergency workers. A senior Bush administration official said that although "the president is still making his final determinations, that's the current thinking." A Bush aide added, "There is some discussion of making it available to people who feel they absolutely have to have it. The question is, can the government just hold on to a stockpile?" Administration officials said that Bush will likely delay a decision on whether to offer the vaccine to the general public, despite "growing pressure" to make the vaccine available (Milbank, Washington Post, 11/25).
At a meeting of the Republican Governors Association on Friday, several governors called on HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to "be more aggressive" in efforts to make the smallpox vaccine available to the public, the Washington Times reports. South Dakota Gov. William Janklow (R), who won election to a House seat in the 108th Congress, said that the faster the federal government "moves to make it available, the more surprised you'll be how many places there are in America where most of the people will get the shots." He added that the government should administer the vaccine "before, not after, a bioterrorist attack," the Times reports. Thompson said, "We're going to be able to immunize every man, woman and child in America, usually on a voluntary basis, but there has to be a plan" (Hallow, Washington Times, 11/23).
Public health experts remain concerned about a wide-scale smallpox vaccination plan. "In my own mind I feel that as soon as word gets out that a few people in the health care system have been injured by the vaccine, it's going to be much more difficult to sell this to people," Lucy Tompkins, a Stanford University microbiologist, said. John Modlin, chair of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and a Dartmouth scientist, said, "The subsequent steps will very much depend on the successes and experience of the first round" (Washington Post, 11/23).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.