U.K. Administers Smallpox Vaccine to Medical Personnel for Bioterror Response

The United Kingdom has administered smallpox vaccinations to more than five hundred medical personnel who could treat victims of a potential terrorism strike involving the virus at this summer's Olympic Games in London, the London Telegraph reported on Sunday (see GSN, Oct. 20, 2011).

The nation has amassed enough smallpox vaccine doses to "mount a U.K.-wide vaccination program" following a possible attack incorporating smallpox, which is said to have been eliminated from nature in 1980.

The vaccinated group is comprised of 147 physicians, 164 nurses 100 paramedics and 32 scientific specialists split into a number of "Smallpox Management and Response Teams." Every team of five medical professionals encompasses a specially trained nurse and an expert on child health. All have received preparations for identifying and treating smallpox infections.

Participants in the medical groups first received vaccinations in 2005 and have subsequently been given refresher doses. Authorities have taken steps to ensure the personnel will be on standby while the Olympics are in progress in July and August.

The British Home Office said last year that Olympic competition sites or transit operations could be an "appealing target" for acts of biological terrorism. The threat was discussed against during a House of Lords discussion in December.

Conservative lawmaker Michael Jopling argued that the count of emergency personnel who have received anthrax and smallpox vaccinations was "pathetically low."

Home Office minister Oliver Eden highlighted the government's readiness in a letter prepared after the parliamentary discussion.

“A wide range of possible incidents or attacks has been considered by government. Following this process, the UK Health Departments have established an appropriate stockpile of vaccines, medical countermeasures and specialist equipment to be used to protect and treat the public and emergency responders,” Eden stated.

“Government has taken steps to protect emergency service personnel against such threats. A cohort of front line health workers has been vaccinated to deal with any initial suspected or confirmed cases of smallpox," his letter adds. "No additional plans are in place specifically in response to the impending London 2012 Olympics, although risks are regularly reviewed based in part on the threat level in the national risks assessment (NRA)" (Edward Malnick, London Telegraph, Jan. 1).

January 4, 2012
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The United Kingdom has administered smallpox vaccinations to more than five hundred medical personnel who could treat victims of a potential terrorism strike involving the virus at this summer's Olympic Games in London, the London Telegraph reported on Sunday.