On Friday, December 13, 2002, President Bush announced a National Smallpox Vaccination Program to better protect the American people against the threat of smallpox. There is concern that rogue organizations or nations may possess laboratory strains of smallpox that could be used as biological weapons of mass destruction. The National Smallpox Vaccination Program is designed to ensure there would be a cadre of healthcare professionals who could care for the sick, should a case of smallpox ever occur, and that there would be sufficient vaccine for everyone in the United States should the need for mass vaccination ever arise.
The National Smallpox Vaccination Program focuses upon smallpox response teams, primary healthcare providers, the military, and the general public. The program involves three phases using two different vaccines. Phase One immunizes the smallpox treatment teams, Phase Two immunizes primary health providers, and Phase Three will be a voluntary program for the general public. Immunization of military personnel who may be deployed to high-risk regions has already begun.
Taylor Health and Wellness Center's participation in the program will be in a way consistent with the needs of the local community, the state, and with its mission to care for members of the University Community.
Taylor Health and Wellness Center does not have smallpox vaccine. The national smallpox vaccination plan does not recommend that any member of the general public be vaccinated against smallpox at this time.
The Phase Three vaccination program for the general public will probably not begin until some time in 2003, if it ever does begin. By that time, there is good reason to believe that there may be a vaccine much safer than the only vaccine licensed at the moment. Since smallpox is not a problem anywhere in the world, and hopefully never will be, the risk of contracting smallpox is nonexistent unless it is reintroduced. Vaccination of entire communities could be rapidly implemented should a case of smallpox occur. Vaccination within several days of exposure prevents death from smallpox. The risks of an adverse event occurring with the current vaccine, a modified live cowpox virus called vaccinia, are very real. One in a million individuals who receive it will die of complications, and several per thousand who receive it will have substantial though reversible complications. This vaccinia live virus vaccine is the one that will be used to vaccinate the smallpox response teams that would respond to an actual smallpox-related event. It is hoped that the vaccine in clinical trials will be much safer and as effective. This vaccine may not be available to the general public for some time.
Taylor Health and Wellness Center is working with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department to develop a plan and to identify volunteers among its staff and in the University community that would be willing to respond to a smallpox-related incident should that disastrous event ever occur. These individuals may be offered vaccination. At this time, there is no plan to stock vaccine for others among the university community. Those individuals in the general community who believe that they should be vaccinated before it is available to the general public may wish to contact one of the principle investigators of the investigational vaccine or contact the Springfield/Greene County Health Department. See http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ for further information.
Current information on smallpox and the National Smallpox Vaccination Program is available at http://www.cdc.gov/smallpox.