RealNews

Focus on Smallpox Threat Revived

National security experts inside and outside the Bush administration, fearing the president’s smallpox immunization program is all but dead, have begun a major public relations campaign to inject new life into a project they describe as vital to homeland protection. In a series of interviews and published articles, Pentagon officials, conservative thinkers and a few public health officials argue that without a sizable network of inoculated health care workers, the United States remains ill-equipped to respond to a smallpox attack. And, they contend, anxiety about the dangerous side effects of the vaccine should be quelled by the success of the military in immunizing nearly a half-million personnel with few serious complications. “Our goal at this point should be to meet [President Bush’s] plan and to vaccinate the number of people originally targeted in the health care community of between 400,000 and 500,000,” said William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. “I would certainly be more comfortable if we had that number of civilians prepared to respond.” Full Story

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