January 19, 2003 issue of the Seattle Times adds more controversy and fire
to the debate on the idea of performing mass smallpox vaccinations in
response to the threat of a terrorist attack. The article starts off by
stating, "More than 800,000 people in Washington state — about one in seven
residents — could risk a severe reaction from close contact with a person
recently vaccinated against smallpox, combined estimates from health
authorities and state officials indicate.
article says that the authorities define severe reactions as ranging from a
painful, widespread rash to death. In explaining the process the article
states that the smallpox vaccine is not given as a regular shot; instead, it
is inserted into layers of the skin with repeated pricks of a small needle.
The vaccination site is then kept covered until it heals. Direct skin
contact with secretions from vaccination wounds could set off the
complications. These contacts include touching bedding, towels or clothing
thus spreading the secretions.
These secretions contain live vaccinia virus, a cousin of
the smallpox virus which supposedly tricks healthy immune systems into
building a smallpox defense. The vaccinia virus is the active component of
the smallpox vaccine. These vaccination sites are contagious for about three
weeks, until the scab falls off. The problem is then that those who are
vulnerable can contract severe "vaccinia," which is caused by this virus.
Additionally, secretions that touch healthy people could cause a rash that,
if it gets into the eye, could cause permanent damage.
Judith Billings, chair of the Washington State Governor's
Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS says, "We do not want to discourage people from
getting health care because they are scared (of vaccinated healthcare
workers) But we want them to know there are risks and that they should
take the appropriate actions."
The article stated that there are groups of people who would
be more at risk from contact with people who have been vaccinated. These
groups include anyone who has had eczema or atopic dermatitis, or anyone who
has had one of many other types of skin disorders. Additionally at risk are
pregnant women, infants under age 1, people with HIV, cancer patients,
patients who have had organ transplants, and the elderly.