Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
Thu, Oct. 17

County has no smallpox vaccine

Mohave County residents will not have access anytime soon to smallpox vaccine that President George W.

Bush said Thursday would be made available to the public.

However, Bush also said there does not appear to be an imminent threat from smallpox to Americans and he recommended most people not get the inoculation.

An Associated Press story reported that people wishing to receive the vaccine now can get an unlicensed version through a clinical trial process.

But that clinical trial process is not being done in Mohave County.

"A clinical trial looks at a certain number of people in a study group," said Patty Mead, director of the Mohave County Department of Health and Social Services.

"The study looks at what sort of reactions people have or don't have and gathers statistics."

Mead does not know when smallpox vaccine might be made available to her department from existing federal government stockpiles.

New batches of the vaccine are being prepared, but will not be ready until early in 2004 by which time the administration will have a process in place for determining which Americans without disqualifying conditions can get it, the AP story said.

The county health department has put together three rapid response teams of four members each to address any possible case of smallpox, Mead said.

Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City all will have one of the teams.

Mead said 10 of the 12 team members will receive smallpox vaccinations in the near future in Phoenix, although she does not have an exact date yet.

Two of the team members have risk factors and will not be vaccinated.

Three health department staff members are scheduled to go to Phoenix on Dec.

19 to receive training at the state health department on how to properly administer smallpox vaccinations, Mead said.

Those staff members will in turn train other department employees and volunteers in giving vaccinations.

Studies from the 1960s led experts to determine that 15 of every million people receiving the smallpox vaccine for the first time will experience life-threatening complications and one or two will die.

That leads to the belief that, if every American is vaccinated, nearly 3,000 will have life-threatening complications and there would be at least 170 deaths.

Reactions are less common for those people who have previously been vaccinated.

"Smallpox vaccine is one of the more dangerous ones," Mead said.

"But weigh the risk of the vaccine against the disease and the disease is far more dangerous."

The mortality rate for people not vaccinated that contract smallpox is 33 percent.

Anyone considering vaccination should consider their risk factors now and check with their physician, Mead said.

Waiting until clinic dates for vaccinations are announced and going to them uncertain will slow down the vaccination process.

"Our health department staff is working overtime to get a (vaccination) plan in place," Mead said.

"We'll let the public know when and where clinics will be held and in the meantime get out information on smallpox in a timely manner to better help people make educated decisions on vaccination."

Among people who should not get the vaccination are those with compromised immune systems, including cancer patients, organ transplant recipients and anyone with HIV.

Pregnant women and people with a history of eczema also should not consider vaccination, Mead said.

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