THURSDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. government’s smallpox vaccination program eroded the credibility of federal health officials while leaving no clear indication of how well prepared the nation might be against a bioterrorist attack.
So said Dr. Brian Strom, chairman of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee which released a report Thursday on lessons learned from the 2002 vaccination effort. The panel presented its findings in Washington, D.C.
While stopping short of calling the program a failure, the report did find what appear to be serious shortfalls in how the initiative was implemented. The report, titled The Smallpox Vaccination Program: Public Health in an Age of Terrorism, is the last of seven reports providing recommendations and guidance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unlike earlier reports, however, this one was undertaken at the IOM’s own initiative.
These lessons learned are important because “bioterrorism, unfortunately, continues to be a threat and it is likely that future programs like this will need to be initiated,” ….
At the time, the U.S. government called for a two-phase, voluntary strategy for civilians. In the first stage, roughly 450,000 heath-care and emergency workers would receive the vaccine, followed by a second round covering up to 10 million other so-called “first responders” in the event of a bioterror attack.
According to a Feb. 18 article in the Toledo Blade, very few U.S. civilians — just 40,000 health-care workers and others — ended up volunteering for vaccination. Dr. David Grossman, health commissioner for Toledo and Luca County, Ohio, said the volunteer program never really gained momentum.
“We all agree it was a party no one came to,” he told the Blade. “I doubt that 40,000 people in a nation of 300 million is enough.”
It certainly isn’t enough, and there’s plently of blame to go around.
My hospital was told we’d be getting “x” doses, and we had to decide who was going to get the vaccinations. Most of the ED crew volunteered to get vaccinated, but they did something bizarre: they wouldn’t tell us the exact date or place to get the vaccine until the last minute. I didn’t get the shot, as they had a bad phone number for me and I missed their double-secret meeting time. I still want the vaccination.
And, sounds like there’s plent of vaccine to go around. Wonder if I can get a shot?