Bush Administration has not answered key questions
Washington, DC -- The American Nurses Association (ANA) continues to raise important questions about the Bush Administration's plans to begin vaccinating thousands of Americans against smallpox, beginning with registered nurses and other health care professionals who would be called upon to respond to an outbreak.
"We are well aware that there is a pressing need to be prepared against the possibility of a bio-terrorist attack," said ANA President Barbara A. Blakeney, MS, APRN,BC, ANP. "Since 1998, the ANA has been involved in developing strategies for educating the nation's 2.7 million registered nurses to respond in the event of such an attack. ANA also is working closely with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), to develop the National Nurse Response Teams for just such an event," she added. "However, we want people to be able to make an informed decision about whether or not they should get vaccinated against smallpox, and I do not believe we have the answers we need to make that informed decision," she said.
In a November 7, 2002, letter to DHHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, Blakeney outlined a series of issues that need to be addressed before proceeding with widespread inoculations. Those issues include, but are not limited to:
*Assurances that the decision by a health care worker about whether to be vaccinated is voluntary and without fear of reprisal. ANA is pleased that the President has informally expressed his intention to make the vaccination program voluntary for all.
*Who would pay for the costs related to vaccination and possible treatment for any side-effects, including potential side-effects suffered by family members of those vaccinated. An additional concern is that, at the present time, the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) does not cover voluntary immunizations.
*Who would bear the cost for lost work time related to the vaccinations. ANA believes any lost work days should be paid by the employer.
*Potential liability/malpractice concerns as a result of administering the vaccine.
*Needlestick safety concerns.
*Risk of complications associated with skin diseases or dermatitis.
It is estimated that 8 percent to 12 percent of health care workers are sensitized to latex which often presents itself in the form of dermatitis. The potential for dermatologic reactions must be taken into account both in discussing the overall vaccination policy and when developing the screening questionnaire and interview process.
The letter may be read, in its entirety, at www.nursingworld.org/news/disaster/bbltrsmpx.htm
ANA encourages DHHS to respond to these issues prior to implementing any program.
"Whenever and wherever disasters have struck, registered nurses have responded selflessly by lending their skills, time and expertise to help victims and their families," Blakeney said. "Nurses are the backbone of the American health care system, and I expect they will respond to this call as well," she added. "However, it is our duty to protect, as much as possible, those persons who would step forward to protect us all," she said.
Mass Smallpox Vaccination Program to Launch in 2003
Military and front-line healthcare workers will be vaccinated first; vaccines should be available to the general public by 2004.
Medscape Medical News 2002 (Free registration required).
Edited links. Karen