Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Smallpox vaccinations to follow newest guidelines

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Health officials in Kentucky will follow new guidelines for smallpox vaccinations but are continuing to vaccinate health workers while a possible link to three heart-related deaths is investigated.

The new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules advise a temporary suspension of the vaccine for people with heart disease and multiple heart disease risk factors after reports of heart problems in seven recently vaccinated health care workers. Seven states suspended their vaccine programs until further investigation.

Kentucky has vaccinated 428 public health and hospital workers. No serious health reactions have been reported.

The number vaccinated - even before questions about possible heart-related problems - is far fewer than projected by public health officials. "I thought we would have several thousand done by mid-April," said Dr. Rice Leach, Kentucky's public health commissioner. "We've got about 5 to 8 percent of that number done now."

Similar reluctance has been seen nationwide. Health workers have been slow to take the vaccine, worried about potentially serious side effects. Some feel the risk of a smallpox outbreak is remote.

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