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Last Updated

14 Jan 2003

Source: Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2003

US Army Starts Smallpox Vaccinations For Kuwait Personnel


KUWAIT CITY (AP)--The U.S. military said Tuesday it has started vaccinating its emergency response and medical personnel to protect them from any possible attack by terrorists or hostile governments with the virus which causes smallpox .

More than 17,000 U.S. servicemen and women are in Kuwait, part of a massive buildup in the area to pressure neighboring Iraq to give up weapons of mass destruction, or if U.S. President George W. Bush decides, to invade the country.

"The plan to vaccinate certain emergency response and medical personnel and other designated personnel," said U.S. military spokesman Army Sgt. 1st Class David Dismukes.

"We are concerned that terrorists or governments hostile to the U.S. may have or could obtain some of the variola virus that causes the smallpox disease," he said.

Kuwait, the small oil-rich state which owes its 1991 liberation from a seven-month Iraqi occupation to a U.S.-led coalition, could become a launch pad for a war on Iraq.

Dec. 13, Bush directed as many as 500,000 U.S. troops to get smallpox vaccinations as part of an effort to guard against bioterrorism. Later in the month, he fulfilled a promise to get the shot himself, though he said his family wouldn't because the risk of a domestic attack didn't justify it.

Experts estimate 15 out of every 1 million people vaccinated for the first time will face life-threatening complications, and one or two will die. Reactions are less common for those being revaccinated, as Bush was. He suffered no ill effects.