Peninsula: Smallpox vaccine on the way for health-care workers

Local vaccination plans to assure protection of key people in the case of a smallpox outbreak are in place for high-risk military and health-care workers.

About 280 civilian health care workers in Jefferson, Clallam and Kitsap counties are among an estimated 7,000 statewide who will receive the smallpox vaccine.

There are no plans to vaccinate the general public, unless there is a terrorist attack.

“I think the most important message (for the public) is that there are steps in place to achieve readiness capacity while at the same time minimizing risk,”‘ said Rick Gunderson, formerly in Navy intelligence and now bioterrorism coordinator for the three-county region.

The vaccinations would not be mandatory, since they could pose risks to health care workers with suppressed immune systems and certain other medical conditions.

The vaccine is not expected to be available until late January, after the Homeland Defense Act is signed and liability protection is activated. The shots can cause rare but serious side effects, including death.

Dr. Tom Locke, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, met with health care workers Friday at Olympic Memorial Hospital in Port Angeles to outline the plans.

Locke is scheduled to report to the Clallam County Board of Health about smallpox vaccinations for county employees. He is expected to address the board during its meeting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Health and Human Services Conference Room. The room is in the basement of the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St. in Port Angeles.

For now, Locke said, the government’s main strategy is to vaccinate those who would have to care for victims — and vaccinate everyone else if a deliberate release of smallpox were to happen.

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The rest of the story appears in the Monday Peninsula Daily News. Click on SUBSCRIBE, above, to get the PDN delivered to your home or office.

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