Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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U.S. to be vaccinated against smallpox

(U-WIRE) CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — U.S. Department of Health and Human Services plans to purchase more than 200 million doses of the smallpox vaccine by December, hoping to vaccinate every U.S. citizen.

The White House believes terrorists could strike against the United States with smallpox.

“If the smallpox virus was reintroduced into society, it would be as an act of bioterrorism,” said department spokesman Bill Pierce.

Under the plan, health-care workers might be the first to be given the smallpox vaccine.

The plan would vaccinate those at greatest risk of encountering a patient with smallpox, such as infectious disease specialists and emergency room personnel, Pierce said.

The last case of smallpox in the world was reported in 1977, according to the department’s website. The disease was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980 by the World Health Organization.

In March, Department Secretary Tommy Thompson announced plans to obtain more than 75 million doses of smallpox vaccine from Aventis Pasteur Inc. However, the decades-old vaccine has to be proven safe and effective before it is used.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has 15.4 million existing doses of the smallpox vaccine. The vaccine can be diluted effectively five times, increasing the stock to 77 million doses, Pierce said. In addition to the 77 million doses, Pierce said the department is purchasing 206 million more, totaling about 283 million doses of the smallpox vaccine.

However, Lynne Reagan, Carle Hospital registered nurse and manager of infection control, said the vaccine does have some side effects.

When people get vaccinated, the dose can actually harm them depending on their immune system.

“An X number of people expect to die per million” that get the smallpox vaccine, Reagan said.

The virus also can be spread if a person touches the area where another person received the vaccination, she added.

Reagan said some symptoms of the virus include a rash of large, fluid-filled vesicles that resemble blisters. Flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, headache and backache, also signal smallpox.

Joanna Shisler, assistant professor of microbiology, said the vaccine is a precautionary measure.

She added that the vaccine can be given up to five days after a person becomes infected with the virus. Shisler has been working with a form of the smallpox vaccine, called the vaccinia virus, for about six years. The vaccine protects people against the virus without getting them sick.

Vaccinations to prevent smallpox have not been given in the United States since 1972. People who were given the vaccination prior to 1972 most likely have diminished immunity to smallpox.

Many people that received the vaccination years ago might not be protected now from the disease, Reagan said. She added research does not clarify how long the vaccination is good for. The vaccine doesn’t offer “full immunity for a lifetime,” she said.

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