City Begins Screening First Responders - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/18/03

City Begins Screening First Responders

In the city's Health Department there are 21 people who would be considered first responders for a smallpox outbreak. Out of that 21, only half of them will be getting the smallpox vaccine. One because the vaccine in not mandatory, and even then you must pass an intense screening process.

"There's a 30 page document that each person will have to review before they will be able to receive the vaccination," says City Health Director, Tommy Camden. Camden says high risk individuals will be excluded from taking the shot. "As far as a good candidate: In good health, no immune type diseases, no external skin conditions that might exacerbate the vaccine itself," says Camden.

Here's an example of how the screening process works. In a laboratory, there are six potential first responders. Three have been screened out due to asthma or skin conditions, two will get the vaccine and one says they're not sure.

While some are skeptical that the vaccine is even necessary, others worry about it's safety. But Camden says there's always a risk when you take any kind of drug or vaccine. "It doesn't matter if its a vaccine for smallpox or for diphtheria or whether you're taking any kind of pharmaceutical drug." Side effects from the vaccine include "a skin rash, fever, muscle soreness..." and the extreme case is death. According to health officials, one or two people will die out of every one million people vaccinated. That means you're more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lighting.

Camden says once phase one begins they will have 30 days to complete the vaccinations. The next phase of the program involves inoculating fire, police and emergency personnel. Eventually, everyone in Lubbock will have an opportunity to be screened for the vaccine. The timeline on that is 2004.

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