Smallpox shots to start in February

Posted: Monday, January 27, 2003

FAIRBANKS - The state plans to start vaccinating civilians for smallpox next month in Anchorage.

The move is in response to an executive order issued by President Bush on Dec. 13. The vaccinations will be given only to selected people, most of them medical personnel.

Connecticut was the first state to begin a program, performing its first vaccinations Friday. On Tuesday, Alaska will receive the vaccine from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said state epidemiologist Beth Funk.

Four vaccination clinics one week apart are planned to begin Feb. 20, all in Anchorage. Vaccinations are planned for health-care workers in all regions of the state who would be the ones to respond if a smallpox outbreak occurred in Alaska or if the president called for more widespread vaccination clinics.

Volunteers will receive special training before receiving the shots.

"The training has to do with everything from how to screen, how to give vaccinations - to what the adverse reactions are," Funk told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The vaccinations are voluntary.

Smallpox is a highly contagious disease that could be fatal for 30 percent of infected people. It was eradicated in the United States a half century ago, except under controlled circumstances in certain labs. Routine smallpox vaccinations ceased in 1972.

Adverse reactions to the inoculation were common. Reactions included swelling, soreness and fever. About 1,000 people out of every million vaccinated for the first time experienced reactions - mainly skin rashes-considered serious enough to require medical attention.

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