As a Republican-backed smallpox vaccination compensation bill was about to hit the House floor, three Democrats denounced the legislation, saying it does not provide enough compensation to health workers who may be injured from the inoculation and does not guarantee funding for the program. Reps. Lois Capps of California, a registered nurse, Henry Waxman, also of California, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio voiced their opposition to the bill and called for an alternative bill that would remove financial caps in the event a health worker is injured as a result of being inoculated. The Republican bill caps compensation in the event of death or permanent and total disability at $262,100. Those who suffer less serious injuries can receive up to $50,000 per year for lost wages with a lifetime cap of $262,100. Democrats want lost wages to be increased to up to $75,000 without a lifetime cap. Their proposals also would allow dependents of those who die or are permanently and totally injured to be paid up to $75,000 per year in lost wages without a lifetime cap.
In the past week three people who received the vaccination have died. Others have fallen ill, further raising safety concerns about the vaccine. Several states, including California, Illinois and New York, temporarily have suspended their vaccination programs as a result. -- by Tony Fong