ANA Asks President to Delay Smallpox Vaccination Plans

  1. American Nurses Association 1/17/03
    The American Nurses Association (ANA) has asked President Bush to delay plans to begin immunization of nurses and other front-line health care workers until key concerns are addressed about the health and welfare of those who are immunized.
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  3. by   -jt
    ANA Responds to Wall Street Journal Editorial
    February 13, 2003

    <The Wall Street Journal

    To the Editor:

    Your Feb. 11 editorial, "Dark Smallpox Winter," does indeed succeed in scaring people about the potential threat and consequences of smallpox being used as a weapon of terror. However, many health care organizations that support the goal of preparing for acts of terrorism have voiced thoughtful concerns about the administration's vaccination plan. We are still awaiting answers.

    In November, the American Nurses Association asked the Department of Health & Human Services to address its concerns about the vaccination plan, including the risk of cross-contamination - exposing patients and family members to the virus - as well as issues ranging from staffing shortages to compensation. To frame the concerns as being focused solely on compensation is misleading. Given no response from HHS and with the start of the vaccination program looming, on Jan.16, I sent a letter to President Bush asking him to delay implementation of the program until these questions were answered. We are still awaiting answers.

    And, despite the editorial's suggestion that workers are covered, there is no consensus that state-based worker's compensation programs would cover those who suffer as a result of taking the vaccine. While it is true that health care workers are exposed to illness and hazards on the job, we oppose exposing nurses, patients and their families to unnecessary and ill-defined risk complicated by incomplete information. Given the concerns raised by the Institute of Medicine's expert panel, as well as the sheer number of organizations and individual health care workers who are balking at participating in the vaccination program, shouldn't the administration and the public heed this as a signal that more work is needed before the program is rolled out?

    We continue to ask the Bush Administration to take the time now - at the start of the vaccination program - to address the plan's shortcomings. Despite your contention to the contrary, the ball is in the administration's court. The Bush Administration has the ability to address the questions and shore up the program. When that work is done, you will find nurses ready and willing to volunteer.


    Barbara A. Blakeney, MS, APRN,BC, ANP
    American Nurses Association
    202-651-7011 >
  4. by   -jt
    U.S. House Bill Addresses Smallpox Vaccine Safety, Liability Issues; Bush Administration, Senate Promise Similar Actions


    The U.S. House of Representatives has introduced a bill that would address many unresolved issues surrounding President Bush's plan to vaccinate 500,000 health care workers against smallpox. The bill, the Smallpox Vaccine and Compensation and Safety Act (H.R. 865), introduced Feb. 12 by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) with original co-sponsors Reps. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Lois Capps (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA), would offer education, medical screening and surveillance to health care workers who volunteer for the smallpox vaccine.

    In addition, the legislation would provide medical care and a no-fault compensation fund for anyone harmed by the vaccine. Assistance would be administered through state grants.

    Meantime, the Bush Administration also said it is finalizing a proposal to extend compensation to volunteers who experience adverse effects following smallpox vaccinations. The coverage may also extend to volunteers' families and patients who are exposed to the vaccine. In addition, the Administration is expected to add provisions further protecting vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits.

    A similar proposal is being considered in the Senate but a bipartisan agreement has not yet been reached. The administration's voluntary vaccination initiative, underway since Jan. 24, has received harsh criticism from ANA, as well as hospitals, public health officials and other organizations representing health care workers for failing to address potential safety and liability concerns.

    ANA has written President Bush and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson expressing reservations about the vaccination plan, citing concerns over unnecessary health risks to nurses and their patients and unanswered questions regarding potential liability issues.