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Some KDMC staff set for smallpox vaccine

Personnel at King’s Daughters Medical Center and other statehospitals will probably be among the “first wave” of peoplevaccinated against smallpox, according to state Department ofHealth officials.

The state has developed a plan to vaccinate in the event of anemergency and is presently working toward implementing PresidentGeorge W. Bush’s plan to vaccinate the “first wave” of medicalpersonnel who would be exposed to the virus, said Dr. Mary Currier,state epidemiologist.

State health department Public Health Response Teams are thefirst who will receive the vaccination once the plan isimplemented, she said. Once those teams are vaccinated, the healthdepartment will begin visiting hospital emergency rooms across thestate to advise them of the benefits and potential side effectsassociated with the vaccination.

At this point, Currier said, only volunteers among hospitalappointed staff in a position to treat a potentially exposedpatient are being considered.

“We’re taking an active role here and taking the state veryseriously on this,” said Kathy Bridge, KDMC’s Smallpox ResponseTeam coordinator. “We’ve had an excellent response.”

Already, Bridge said, the KDMC response team has 18 volunteersfrom various medical fields.

“We have representation from all our clinical areas on theteam,” she said.

The plan requires a visit from a health department official todiscuss the virus with hospital employees a week before anyproposed vaccination to give them time to consider the need. Theofficial would return a week later to vaccinate one-third of thosewho chose to become immunized.

“By doing them in thirds, not all of a staff is subjected to thevaccine at one time,” Currier said.

The official would return in two consecutive weeks to vaccinatethe rest of the volunteers.

KDMC is scheduled to meet with representatives from the healthdepartment Jan. 7, Bridge said, to plan with them. The responseteam is scheduled to meet the day before to have the hospital’sresponse plan tentatively in place.

The health department has issued some voluntary requirements tothe hospitals for members of the response team who plan to beimmunized.

“We are only offering the vaccine, so far, to people who havebeen vaccinated before,” Currier said. “This lessens the chance ofany negative side effects.”

The vaccine had been given routinely until the early 1970s, shesaid, so many people have been vaccinated for it in the past. Butthe vaccine could have some serious side effects, including deathin rare cases.

“I personally am going to recommend that,” Bridge said of thehealth department’s request. “I would like to discourage those whohaven’t had it in the past from being immunized. They can still beon the response team without the immunization.”

The state’s emergency response plan already in place calls forthe vaccination of the patient, any contacts of the patient who mayhave been exposed and anyone who came in contact with those people”to form a double ring of protection,” Currier said.

Although the President has authorized the vaccination of anyconcerned citizen after emergency personnel have been provided for,Currier said she has not seen a lot of demand here.

“We’ve not had many calls on this,” she said. “This risk ofexposure is very low to the public and it’s not a pleasant vaccine,so I wouldn’t recommend it.”

For more information on the vaccination plan or smallpox, seethe health department website at www.msdh.ms.us or the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/smallpox.