The U.S. smallpox immunization program, intended to defend the nation against a bioterrorist attack, has come to an informal halt, USA Today reported today (see GSN, June 19).
“The fact is, it’s ceased,” said Raymond Strikas, who directed the civilian immunization program for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Not that anyone’s issued an edict to say stop,” he added.
The program to immunize hundreds of thousands of emergency workers was initiated last December with strong support from U.S. President George W. Bush. Health officials initially said they expected to immunize about 450,000 emergency workers to prepare for a possible outbreak, but fewer than 40,000 people have volunteered to receive the vaccine since the program began.
The Homeland Security Department denied, however, that the effort fell short of its goals.
“We are pleased that the program has inoculated enough first responders and health care workers that could respond should there be an outbreak of smallpox,” said department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse (Anita Manning, USA Today, Oct. 16).