SALEM - As the Homeland Security Act goes into effect, Oregon's public health and health care workers are scheduled to receive vaccinations beginning in mid-March.
In Grant County, the first round of inoculations will begin in the Health Department. County bioterrorism nurse David Cary (who is based in the Health Department, although he works out of the Grant County Criminal Justice Facility) and registered nurse Marsha Delaney will receive the first shots, according to department administrator Johnnie Titus.
Statewide, kinks in the federal vaccination program continue to be worked out.
If a case of smallpox occurred, vaccinations would begin immediately, but meanwhile, there are unresolved legal questions concerning vaccination clinic procedures, said Oregon State epidemiologist Mel Kohn, M.D. for the Department of Human Services.
Section 304 of the Homeland Security Act contains federal liability protections for the program to begin, but other issues left unclarified concern workers compensation, liability and loss of pay in the event of serious illness or even death resulting from the vaccine.
The smallpox vaccine program was halted in 1972 because of concerns about the safety of the vaccine and because the disease was no longer a threat.
In December 2002, Oregon submitted two plans for confronting a possible smallpox outbreak with one plan vaccinating about 800 state and local public health and private hospital workers around the state, who would then be able to investigate potential cases, give vaccinations and care for potential smallpox patients. The second plan, which calls for wider vaccination, would be used only if an actual smallpox case were discovered.
Earlier this month, 70 public health staff were trained on how to do a smallpox vaccination, and guides are being prepared for operation of smallpox vaccine clinics.