Thousands of Smallpox Vaccine Doses Unused, Likely To Expire
Public health officials in California, Illinois, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania say that they may have to discard more doses of the smallpox vaccine than they have used, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. So far, those states have vaccinated 5,041 people but have prepared 15,300 doses of the vaccine; if the doses are not used within 90 days of the time that the vaccine powder is mixed with solution, they must be thrown away (Snowbeck, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/4). The first phase of the national smallpox vaccination program, which aimed to vaccinate 500,000 health care workers in its first weeks, began in January. As of late last month, about 38,000 health care workers had received the inoculations; in the military's campaign, which is separate from the civilian program, more than 450,000 personnel have been inoculated. CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding last month said that states should move forward with the campaign's second phase, which aims to inoculate 10 million first responders. That announcement contradicted an earlier recommendation from a CDC advisory panel against expanding the vaccination program (California Healthline, 6/27). While state health officials in California and Illinois say that some of the prepared doses might still be used, city health officials in Los Angeles and state health officials in New York and Ohio say their smallpox vaccination campaigns for both health care workers and first responders are "pretty much over," the Post-Gazette reports. Dr. Linda Rosenstock, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of California-Los Angeles, said the large number of unused doses shows that the campaign's "aggressive approach" was not "sufficiently well-justified to the medical and scientific communities." Michael Huff, acting director of the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Office of Public Health Preparedness, said the low numbers of vaccinations may be attributed to people being less worried about smallpox since "the war is over, ... our alert status is reduced ... [and] there is no blatant evidence of biologicals in Iraq" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/4).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.