Voluntary vaccination of healthcare and emergency responders began in 2004 in accordance with federal recommendations.
Naturally occurring smallpox was eradicated following worldwide vaccination programs approximately 25 years ago. However, the possibility remains that terrorists could possess and use the smallpox virus as part of a terrorist attack. In December 2002, the Federal Government initiated a national preparedness program to protect citizens against smallpox being used as a biological weapon. Public health officials and medical providers are now taking precautions to be ready to deal with such an attack, if it were to take place.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is participating in the national smallpox preparedness program. In Phase I of the plan, teams of healthcare providers were voluntarily vaccinated so they are able to respond quickly should a smallpox attack should occur. DHSS has initiated Phase II, in which the smallpox vaccine will be made available to first responders as their duties and responsibilities may include an increased risk of exposure during an outbreak. Locally, the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services has agreed to serve as a regional coordinating agency to assist in educating and vaccinating first responders in Regions F and B (as defined by the Missouri State Highway Patrol). If you are a first responder located in either of these regions, please contact Trina Teacutter, R.N. for more information on opportunities in your area at (573) 874-7356, or email her at email@example.com.
The smallpox vaccination is completely voluntary. First responders should carefully consider whether or not it makes sense to receive the vaccination. Considerations include whether or not there are limiting health factors, either with those wanting to receive the vaccine, or within their families. With this in mind, it is very important that family and other close contacts be considered in the decision. Other factors, including the physical effects (i.e. those being vaccinated may be ill enough to miss work for a few days) and financial impact should also be a part of the decision.
Most newly vaccinated people experience normal, usually mild, reactions that include a sore arm, fever and body aches. Some people may experience more serious reactions requiring medical attention.
Certain individuals should not receive the vaccine unless they have been exposed to a confirmed case of smallpox. They include persons with skin conditions such as dermatitis, heart (cardiac) conditions, eczema or atopic dermatitis, herpes; people on certain medications such as anti-virals, steroidal anti-inflammatories (prednisone) or chemotherapy; persons with HIV; women who are pregnant, or who think they may become pregnant in the 2 months after their vaccination. Information about the vaccine will be provided and explained to all those considering vaccination, so they will be well informed before receiving it. We have a strong plan in place to screen individuals. We will be diligent in assuring that those who should not receive the vaccine are identified and deferred.
At this time, the smallpox vaccine is not available to the general public. To learn more about smallpox, please visit our external website directory.