- In the latest sign that the nation's smallpox vaccination
program has fallen short of
- expectations, public health officials in several large
states say they may end up throwing
- away more smallpox vaccine than they have used.
- Public health officials contacted in California, Illinois,
Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania said
- they still have plenty of vaccine. Of the combined 53,800
doses they've received for health
- care workers, the states have prepared just 15,300 for
use. But out of those prepared doses,
- only 5,041 people have been vaccinated.
- The unused vaccine doesn't represent a safety problem
or even raise much of a cost
- concern, but it does show a dramatic change in attitude
that has taken place during the past
- two years.
- "The fact that the doses aren't being used is a
marker of what's commonly recognized: that
- the vaccine campaign failed in meeting its original objective,"
said Dr. Linda Rosenstock,
- dean of the School of Public Health at the University
of California, Los Angeles. "I don't think
- (the campaign) was ever sufficiently well-justified to
the medical and scientific communities
- that the risk of (smallpox) exposure was so great as
to warrant such an aggressive
- In December 2002, President Bush announced the campaign
to vaccinate public health
- officials, hospital workers and emergency first responders
who "could be on the front lines of
- a biological attack." The plan envisioned vaccinating
more than 500,000 people.
- But for a host of reasons, which included the small but
real risks of dangerous side effects
- posed by the vaccine and concerns about who would be
liable for those harmed by
- vaccination, relatively few people have volunteered to
- The government has shipped nearly 300,000 doses of vaccine
to state and local health
- departments, but only about 40,000 people have been vaccinated
so far. Called Dryvax, the
- vaccine comes in powder form. Once a solution is added
to the powder, each 100-dose vial
- is good for 90 days.
- Pennsylvania has received 10,000 doses, but prepared
only 1,200 of them for use. Of those,
- 256 doses have been successfully administered. Some of
the remaining 944 doses have
- already expired and the remainder will expire by August.
- "There's going to be some wasted," said Richard
McGarvey, Pennsylvania Department of
- Health spokesman.
- In California, 6,400 doses were prepared, but only 1,847
people - equal to about a third of the
- doses - have been vaccinated so far. In Illinois, just
291 out of 1,800 prepared doses have
- been used.
- While state health officials in California and Illinois
suggested that at least some of their
- prepared doses might still be used, their counterparts
in the city of Los Angeles and in Ohio
- and New York state said that their campaigns to vaccinate
health care workers and
- emergency responders were pretty much over.
- Ohio successfully used 1,902 out of the 3,400 doses it
prepared. In New York state outside
- New York City, the ratio was 745 people vaccinated to
2,500 doses prepared.
- The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
is not tracking the number of
- prepared doses of vaccine and comparing them with the
- Some vaccine was probably wasted as public health workers
learned how to administer it,
- said Claire Hannan, senior director for immunization
policy for the Association of State and
- Territorial Health Officials. Smallpox vaccine is delivered
with a bifurcated needle and public
- health workers received training in its use.
- Hannan and other public health officials said that the
campaign should not be judged simply
- on numbers.
- Enough people have been inoculated to increase preparedness,
said Donna Knutson, senior
- adviser to the terrorism program at the federal Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Health departments have developed plans and capabilities
to handle mass vaccinations,
- should the need arise.
- "There's enough doses out there that they can be
administered quickly if there's an outbreak,"
- Knutson said. "Preparedness means more than just
having a shot in the arm - it can also
- mean the vaccine is closer to the arm."
- Getting smallpox vaccine into some health care workers
proved useful just last month in
- responding to the first-ever human cases of monkeypox
in the United States.
- Smallpox vaccination provides protection against monkeypox,
and that meant a public health
- worker in northwestern Ohio was able to safely respond
to a probable case, said Jay Carey,
- an Ohio Department of Health spokesman.
- The spread this year of severe acute respiratory syndrome
has also underscored the
- importance of a health care worker vaccination program,
because so many SARS victims
- were doctors and nurses, said Bill Pierce, spokesman
for the U.S. Department of Health and
- Human Services.
- Rosenstock, the dean of public health at UCLA, said,
however, that the wasted doses aren't
- the only waste associated with the vaccination campaign.
- "The far greater waste was the amount of attention,
funding and human resources dedicated
- to this," said Rosenstock, who argued that government
secrecy undercut the campaign.
- "Medical professionals ... are used to trying to
get a sense of what's the risk, what intervention
- are you proposing and what are its benefits and risks,
and then making a judgment," she said.
- "I do think that, at the beginning, we were supposed
to just take the (Bush) administration's
- word that this was a serious risk."
- Christopher Snowbeck can be reached at csnowbeck(at)post-gazette.com.
- Scripps Howard News Service.
- Ingri Cassel, President
- Vaccination Liberation - Idaho Chapter
- P.O. Box 457
- Spirit Lake, ID 83869
- (208)255-2307/ fax 255-2607
- "Free Your Mind....
- From The Vaccine Paradigm"