December 18, 2002
CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE
- President Bush announces national plan for smallpox
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December 18, 2002
PRESIDENT BUSH ANNOUNCES NATIONAL PLAN FOR SMALLPOX IMMUNIZATION
On December 13, President Bush presented the national strategy for smallpox
immunization. A statement of the plan, taken from the website of the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is reprinted below in its
PROTECTING AMERICANS: SMALLPOX VACCINATION PROGRAM
December 13, 2002
Today, the President announced a plan to better protect the American people
against the threat of smallpox attack by hostile groups or governments:
- Smallpox Response Teams
Under the plan, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will
work with state and local governments to form volunteer Smallpox Response
Teams who can provide critical services to their fellow Americans in the
event of a smallpox attack.
To ensure that Smallpox Response Teams can mobilize immediately in an
emergency, health care workers and other critical personnel will be asked
to volunteer to receive the smallpox vaccine.
The federal government is not recommending vaccination for the general
public at this time. There may be some members of the general public who
insist on being vaccinated now. Our public health agencies will work to
accommodate them, but that is not our recommendation at this time.
- Department of Defense and State Department
The President also announced that the Department of Defense (DOD) will
vaccinate certain military and civilian personnel who are or may be
deployed in high threat areas. Some United States personnel assigned
to certain overseas embassies will also be offered vaccination.
STRENGTHENING HOMELAND SECURITY
Although there is no reason to believe that smallpox presents an imminent
threat, the attacks of September and October 2001 have heightened concern
that terrorists may have access to the virus and attempt to use it against
the American public. Immediately after these attacks, HHS began working, in
cooperation with state and local governments, to strengthen our preparedness
for bioterror attacks by expanding the national stockpile of smallpox
vaccine. The United States currently has sufficient quantities of the
vaccine to vaccinate every single person in the country in an emergency.
The smallpox vaccine, which was routinely administered to Americans until
1972, is a highly effective protection against the disease when given before
or shortly after exposure to the virus. Pre-attack vaccination of
Smallpox Response Teams will allow them, in the event of a smallpox attack,
to immediately administer the vaccine to others and care for victims.
HHS is working with states to identify health care workers and first
responders to serve on Smallpox Response Teams. Pre-attack vaccination of
these Smallpox Response Teams will allow them to better protect the
American public against smallpox attack.
The federal government is not recommending that members of the general
public be vaccinated at this point. Our government has no information that a
biological attack is imminent, and there are significant side effects
and risks associated with the vaccine. HHS is in the process of establishing
an orderly process to make unlicensed vaccine available to those adult
members of the general public without medical contraindications who
insist on being vaccinated either in 2003, with an unlicensed vaccine, or
in 2004, with a licensed vaccine. (A member of the general public may also
be eligible to volunteer for an on-going clinical trial for next generation
PREPARING MILITARY AND OVERSEAS PERSONNEL
The President also announced that DOD will take steps immediately to
reinstitute vaccination of certain military and civilian personnel. Those
personnel who are deployed or who may deploy to certain high threat
areas will be vaccinated. The State Department will also offer vaccination
to certain overseas personnel.
Although the vaccine is effective if administered shortly after exposure, it
may not be feasible during an emergency to vaccinate overseas troops and
civilian personnel. Pre-attack vaccination is therefore warranted.
Vaccination of military personnel was conducted during WWI and WWII and
routinely from the 1940s until 1984. Between 1984 and 1990, vaccinations
were provided to many recruits entering basic training.
To access an HTML version of the statement, go to:
To access a camera-ready (PDF) version, go to:
To access the full text of the president's remarks, go to:
To access the seven-minute audio of the remarks, go to:
To access the seven-minute video of the remarks, go to:
To access Frequently Asked Questions about the national smallpox plan from
the White House website, go to:
To access Frequently Asked Questions about smallpox disease and vaccine from
the CDC website, go to:
To access a camera-ready (PDF) version of Frequently Asked Questions from
the CDC website, go to: