By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com December 14 2002 12:00 AM ET
President Bush on Friday announced a new program that will make the smallpox vaccine available to the vast majority of Americans, beginning with the military and health workers who would be front-line defenders against a bioterror attack. But HIV-positive people as well as those who have cancer, who have received organ transplants, who are pregnant, or who have a history of eczema will not be given the vaccine because they are prone to suffer vaccine-related side effects that in rare cases can be fatal. People who live with others suffering from these ailments also will not be vaccinated because it is possible to transfer the virus from the inoculation site on the skin to other people. The first smallpox vaccines for medical personnel are expected to be available in January. The public will be offered the vaccine on a voluntary basis as soon as large stockpiles are obtained, which is likely in early 2004. A massive public health educational campaign about smallpox and smallpox vaccinations is also slated to begin next year.