April 10, 2003
WAILUKU — Health professionals from the Maui District Health
Office are taking steps toward bioterrorism preparedness by receiving
voluntary smallpox vaccinations. Today’s vaccinees will be
members of Hawaii’s public health response teams.
These teams would be called upon to investigate and manage suspected
cases of smallpox and implement control measures in the event of a
bioterrorist attack. The teams include physicians, investigators,
laboratory specialists, nurses and staff assistants.
"The safe vaccination of our public health workers is our highest
priority," said Dr. Paul Effler, State Epidemiologist. "By providing
updated educational materials and a more thorough screening process
we’ve made every effort to help Department of Health employees
make an informed decision and hopefully avoid an adverse reaction."
Due to the potential link between the smallpox vaccine and heart
conditions, the Hawai`i Department of Health is utilizing new screening
methods and materials from the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC). These new screening procedures recommend that
volunteers who have any known underlying heart disease or cardiac risk
factors not be vaccinated at this time.
This is the first time in more than 30 years that a Maui civilian
has received what was once a common vaccine. The World Health
Organization declared smallpox eradicated in 1980 after a worldwide
vaccination campaign. Recent world events have highlighted the United
States’ vulnerability to the use of smallpox as a biological
weapon. In December of 2002 the Bush administration initiated a
national preparedness program. The program calls for the formation of
civilian response teams to provide critical services in the event of a
Detailed information about the virus and Hawaii’s planning
efforts are also available through the Center for Disease Control and
Prevention at www.cdc.gov/smallpox and via the DOH web site at www.state.hi.us/doh.
For more information, contact:
Phone: (808) 357-1942
Laura M. Lott
Phone: (808) 586-4418