The federal government should suspend phase two of its smallpox vaccination program until it can better evaluate the need and risks, according to an article on the Health Affairs Web site. The potential development of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq shaped initial debate over the program, but there is no way to know if the absence of such weapons indicates a lower risk for the U.S., according to the authors, two Nassau County, N.Y., health officials. Relatively few people -- 38,000 -- were vaccinated in phase one of the program compared with the government's initial goal of approximately 500,000 hospital and health workers. For example, only 45 people were vaccinated in Nassau County, a community of 1.3 million people with 13 hospitals, the report said. It's unlikely that "the next 10 million people will be more willing to accept the vaccine than hospital and public health workers were," the authors said. The prevalence of contraindications, especially a history of skin conditions in the potential recipient or household members, disqualified 25% to 37% percent of all health workers, they said. Read the report. -- by Julie Piotrowski
U.S. urged to suspend smallpox program
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