- WASHINGTON - Americans may
face two choices in deciding whether to be vaccinated for smallpox: the
risk of death if they don't take pre-emptive action or the risk of death
(albeit less likely) if they do.
- Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., says he would not hesitate
to have his four grandchildren vaccinated for smallpox.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute
of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the senator at a recent hearing
that he personally would vaccinate his children, as well. However, he says
there needs to be an "open discussion" of the trade-offs in administering
massive vaccinations until or unless the disease has actually struck.
- Specter is impatient with scientific concerns about the
risks involved in pre-emptive vaccines. He says let the parents or grandparents
make that decision.
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- The odds are these. If there were a massive nation-wide
vaccination program, estimates are that at least 300 to 600 Americans would
die, or 1 to 2 out of every million. And that is a conservative projection.
This does not include the risk of side effects short of death, although
these too are believed to be minimal. The elderly, babies under 1 year
old, and pregnant women are believed to be especially vulnerable.
- That sounds like very small gamble, perhaps about as
likely as winning the lottery. But if you lose the lottery, you go on to
live your life. Not so if you take your chances with the smallpox vaccine
- The benefit of vaccination, of course, is being immunized
from the deadly disease. Dr. Byron Weeks, a retired Air Force colonel,
has told NewsMax.com we need vaccinations now.
- Moreover, here are the risks of doing nothing until the
threat actually strikes. Smallpox has a 20 to 30 percent mortality rate.
Short of death, side effects to smallpox include encephalitis or permanent
neurological damage. No question that the risk of not doing anything is
far greater than the risk of dispensing vaccine to the public.
- Current plans call for stockpiling the vaccines until
there is an outbreak. Not many health officials are calling for pre-emptive
action. As of now, there are only 15 million doses on hand.
- Dr. Weeks fears that by the time the gravity of a smallpox
attack sinks in among political and military leaders, they will not dispense
the stocks because once they are used up, there will be none for the military
and the political elites. Thus, current government policy is to stockpile
the vaccine, but not vaccinate the public.
- Sen. Specter believes allowing people who are willing
to go ahead with the vaccination and take the small risk to do so is just
- While government officials ponder the perceived dilemma
of how to deal with a disease believed to be in the hands of terrorist
countries such as Iraq, some Americans have considered going to Canada
or Mexico to get vaccinated. They are not willing to wait until this time
next year when it is expected that an additional 300 million doses will
be available, even assuming massive vaccinations will be administered then.
Some health officials are resisting the idea, although health workers are
being vaccinated. This would lend credence to Weeks' fear that decision-makers
are behind the curve on the urgency of action now.
- Americans have learned that there are people out there
willing to die in order to kill them. That is why there is a concern that
terrorists (possibly some who are themselves infected) might be willing
to assume the role of suicide killers to spread deadly diseases such as
- In the last 30 years, there have been robust debates
over whether certain alleged dangers to human health and life are real
or overblown. Scientific experts say the new terrorist war now presents
the U.S. with life-threatening health risks that are definitely real. The
only controversy lies in deciding exactly what to do about them.
- Posted by permission of NewsMax.com http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2001/11/9/152126.shtml