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Lawmakers Debate Smallpox Vaccine Compensation

The House of Representatives on Monday debated a bill supporters hope will boost the government’s smallpox vaccination program by promising compensation for disabilities or deaths caused by the inoculations. Immunizing health workers against smallpox is part of the government’s plan to prepare the nation for the threat of bioterrorism. The goal is to have hundreds of thousands of workers protected from smallpox so they can provide care if the highly contagious virus is unleashed in an attack. The program has been off to a slow start as some have been reluctant to sign up without a federal compensation plan for a vaccine that can cause serious side effects in rare cases. Democrats and some groups representing nurses and other health workers said the bill considered in the House did not provide sufficient payment for lost wages to workers or their families in cases where the vaccine disables or kills. Full Story

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