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Smallpox Vaccinations for Health-Care Workers Begin
Some Object to Federal Plan, Citing Low Threat, High Risk

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Face lesions on a boy with smallpox.
Face lesions on a boy with smallpox.
Photo: CDC/Cheryl Tyron

Jan. 24, 2003 -- Health-care workers in Connecticut this week are the first to get smallpox vaccination shots as part of the government's bioterrorism plan. It's the initial step in protecting America in case the smallpox virus is used as a weapon. About 500,000 workers around the country are scheduled to receive the vaccine. The second step, slated to begin in a month, calls for the voluntary vaccination of another 10 million medical personnel, police and other so-called first responders.

But as NPR's Richard Knox reports, there's deep ambivalence among public health and health-care professionals about the plan. More than 80 hospitals around the country say they refuse to participate. Hospital officials in Georgia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and Colorado say the risk of a smallpox attack hasn't been clearly outlined and seems too low to justify the risks of taking the vaccine. The vaccine may cause serious side effects and can lead to life-threatening illnesses and death in a few cases.

Follow NPR's recent coverage of the vaccination plan:

Jan. 24, 2003
audio icon For All Things Considered, Knox reports on why some are resisting vaccination out of safety and legal liability fears.

audio icon For Morning Edition, Knox reports on why some health-care workers and hospitals object to the smallpox vaccination plan.

But some are resisting vaccination out of safety and legal liability fears. NPR's Richard Knox reports.

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