UK TO VACCINATE HEALTH WORKERS -- SMALLPOX



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Last Updated

02 Dec 2002

Source: Reuters, December 2, 2002.

UK to Vaccinate Health Workers Against Smallpox

By Stephen Pincock

LONDON (Reuters Health) - By the end of next month Britain plans to have around 350 health workers vaccinated against smallpox as a precaution against a deliberate release of the deadly virus.

Although there is "no evidence of a specific threat," the government wants to ensure the National Health Service (NHS) can deal effectively with a potential smallpox emergency, Health Minister John Hutton said in a written parliamentary statement on Monday.

As part of an "interim plan of action," the government will establish 12 regional smallpox response groups consisting of infectious disease doctors and pediatricians, public health physicians, microbiologists, nurses and occupational health staff, he said.

"This core group of NHS staff will need to be immune to smallpox and therefore able to react quickly and work safely with patients with actual or suspected smallpox," Hutton said. "Preparations for the vaccination of these key workers is now under way. I expect these vaccinations to be completed by the end of next month."

The government's interim plan of action for dealing with smallpox says the primary strategy in the case of an emergency is for the regional response teams to "ring vaccinate" people around any outbreak. The Ministry of Defense is also planning to vaccinate a similar cohort of specialist military personnel.

Hutton noted that the government has already begun boosting smallpox vaccine supplies. In October the government said it aimed to be ready to vaccinate the entire 58 million population if necessary.