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Smallpox vaccine guidelines


Officials at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond said yesterday that the risk of dangerous side effects of the vaccine and inadvertent transmission to patients outweigh the remote threat of an attack with a virus that has not been seen since the 1970s. Three other large medical centers, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Emory Medical Center in Atlanta and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are leaning against inoculating their staffs, according  to The Washington Post, December 18..

On December 31, the Associated Press reported Food and Drug Administration guidelines to the effect that vaccine recipients should not donate blood within three weeks of vaccination because of the possibility of transmitting the live virus via blood transfusions. Those who suffer side effects should wait for an additional 14 days after side effects have disappeared. 

This cannot help but adversely affect the emergency blood supply at least temporarily

Meryl Nass,  MD (Email Jan 1, 2003)

announces healthcare workers' pledge not to give or receive smallpox

inoculations unless the disease recurs.


. . . Adverse effects from smallpox vaccine can include painful swelling, infection, rash, joint pain, malaise and fever.  Perhaps a third of those inoculated may have to stay home one or more days, as with flu-like illness.  Severe rashes, blindness, inflammation of the brain and even death are possible though rare. Serious complications were  reported at the rate of 49-900 per million, and life threatening ones at 14-52 per million.  Some 50 million people in the US with eczema, HIV/AIDS, cancer, lupus, other immune disorders, and atopic dermatitis are at higher risk of more serious reactions.  Since it is a live virus vaccine, vaccinated people can transmit it unwittingly to others for 3 weeks after inoculation, including to family members and high-risk patients.  Smallpox vaccinations have so many adverse side effects that the drug companies have insisted on legal exemption from civil suits for illness and death arising from vaccinations.  Bad reactions from unwarranted mass inoculations could undermine public confidence in all immunization programs and in the competence of health workers to protect the public's health.


In the very remote chance than an outbreak were to occur, the former plans for quarantines and ring vaccinations might be appropriate.  But there has not been a single case of smallpox in the world for over 20 years and even the Bush administration admits that there has been no evidence of any danger of  an outbreak.

Generating fear and hysteria over smallpox may be an effort to gain public support for an unjust and unpopular war against Iraq, for spending even more billions on the military, and for eroding civil liberties.  Let us remember the anthrax outbreak in 2001 that killed 5 people was initially blamed on "foreign terrorists."  Federal investigators admitted months later that the evidence points to a scientist from a US military laboratory.  Expanded research on smallpox and vaccines could increase the number of individuals handling smallpox virus and thus actually increase the risk of some terrible accident or crime from a similar source.  Clearly the risks of the smallpox vaccination campaign far outweigh any presumed benefit.  We don't have to go along with it.

The Health Worker's Pledge

As a health worker, my responsibility is to prevent disease, treat illness and promote health.  My obligation is to help, and above all, do no harm.

Smallpox vaccination has known and potentially serious side effects. In the absence of any evidence of exposure or risk of exposure to smallpox virus, it is unethical and a threat to my health and the health of patients and public that I serve to administer unnecessary vaccine.

Military personnel are unfairly being forced to get the vaccine and this should be stopped.  As a healthcare worker I am being given a choice, and I choose NO!

I will not be pressured to risk my health and the health of patients.  I will not participate in a campaign that is against the best interests of the public I serve. I hereby pledge that, in the absence of evidence of exposure, I will not get and will not give smallpox vaccinations. 

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The Civil Abolitionist

          Winter 2002-03  v.13 no. 3