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Last Updated

14 Mar 2003

Source: Newsday, March 13, 2003

Senate Head to Get Smallpox Vaccination

By LAURA MECKLER, Associated Press writer

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is being vaccinated against smallpox Friday -- and he's being trained to vaccinate others in case of a smallpox attack.

Frist, a transplant surgeon before coming to the Senate, is the latest federal official to be publicly vaccinated, trying to encourage other health care providers to do the same.

"Sen. Frist is eager to encourage other doctors and health professionals to get involved," said spokesman Nick Smith.

As of last week, about 17,000 people had been vaccinated, still far short of the 450,000 federal officials had expected.

Three other high-profile officials have been vaccinated before news cameras this week: Surgeon General Richard Carmona, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Julie Gerberding and federal bioterrorism adviser D.A. Henderson, who led the global effort to eradicate smallpox.

Frist, R-Tenn., is taking it a step further. He'll also be trained to vaccinate others in the case of an attack. That training involves watching a 40-minute video and practicing administering the vaccine -- using a saline solution, not the real thing.

"Frist, a board-certified surgeon, will join the ranks of U.S. health professionals called upon to administer the smallpox vaccine in the event of an outbreak," his office said in a statement. "Frist will receive training and the vaccination in preparation for his service as a Washington, D.C., area front-line responder."

It wouldn't be the first time Frist brought his medical expertise to his Capitol Hill job. He advised fellow lawmakers and their staffers after anthrax infected a Senate office building. And he's been known to administer emergency treatment to tourists and senators in medical need.