Region 8 Begins Vaccinations Against Smallpox

February 7, 2003
Posted at: 9:20 p.m. CST

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- As military personell prepare for a possible war overseas, health care workers in Region 8 are getting ready for a potential biological attack at home.

On Friday, approximately 100 medical professionals in the Missouri received the smallpox vaccine. President Bush called for a plan to get everyone in the country vaccinated in case of a biological attack, and today was a first step in that process.

Sheri Harper is one of a few medical professionals in Missouri who volunteered to protect herself from an outbreak of smallpox. Harper and her colleagues are actually some of the first people in the country to get vaccinated.

"You have to be prepared for things that are going to happen," Harper said. "This is just part of the preparation."

Friday was the vaccinations of the vaccinators: The people who will actually be vaccinating the people who come to these clinics. The next step in the national process will be the vaccination of emergency workers, including law enforcement officials. In 2004, vaccinations will be open to the general public.

According to the Deartment of Health and Human Services, smallpox is a disease which kills up to 30% of people infected with it. Getting the vaccine before exposure will protect most people from the disease.

Some people have shied away from the vaccine because of the side effects that may come from taking it. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every million people vaccinated, only one to two people may die.

"I'll probably have some soreness or something like that," Harper said. "But I really don't think it's going to be anything major. If anyone was to come up with smallpox, we're going to be able to be out in the front lines in the very beginning. We won't have to stand back and wait."