- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 24, 2002

DANA POINT, Calif. The Bush administration has come under fire from the governor of South Dakota, who says that the government needs to be more aggressive in making its smallpox vaccine stockpile available to the public in anticipation of a terrorist attack.
With military action against Iraq looming on the horizon, Gov. Bill Janklow at a meeting of Republican governors asked Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson why the federal government has not begun sending at least a part of its smallpox vaccine stockpile to the states to begin inoculations immediately in advance of expected terrorist attacks.
Mr. Thompson told the governors that the vaccine stockpile was for use in the event of an attack, not in anticipation of such an attack.
Mr. Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor, said that much of the smallpox vaccine was awaiting federal approval for use, and that the earliest delivery to the states would be December 2003.
The governors, assembled for the Republican Governors Association's (RGA) annual conference this weekend, shared their security concerns with Mr. Thompson.
As a war with Iraq looms and with it heightened expectations of terrorism against the United States, the RGA showed its concern by devoting the opening plenary session to preparations for dealing with terrorist attacks.
Mr. Thompson urged the governors to get their plans for immunization against smallpox to him as soon as possible. "We're going to be able to immunize every man, woman and child in America, usually on a voluntary basis, but there has to be a plan.
"You can imagine, if we do go to war in Iraq, and there is some kind of smallpox epidemic, all of you are going to be held responsible if you are not prepared," Mr. Thompson warned.
But Mr. Janklow, who is leaving the governorship and won election to the U.S. House on Nov. 5, said, "All of us here were made aware of the crash basis on which the administration decided to move on smallpox."
He said 70 percent of the people exposed to the smallpox virus in the event of a bioterror attack will contract the disease, and 30 percent will die. There is no cure after the first three to five days, unless the vaccination is administered.
Without mentioning Iraq, Mr. Janklow said the Bush administration is privy to information about what countries possess stockpiles of the smallpox virus and might use it against the United States.
"You know where it is, you know who has it," he told several representatives of the Bush administration. "And you've created 290 million doses of smallpox vaccine on a crash basis. Now the rhetoric is going around about how people don't want it."
Mr. Janklow said the quicker the federal government "moves to make it available, the more surprised you'll be how many places there are in America where most of the people will get the shots."
Mr. Janklow argued that the time to give the vaccine should be before, not after, a bioterrorist attack.
Mr. Thompson responded by saying that one reason for the delay in administering vaccines is that the government has 75 million doses not yet licensed by the Food and Drug Administration.
He said that some of the side effects of the vaccine include inflammation of the brain, physical disfigurement and even death.
"This vaccine is very potent, and in order to do this," Mr. Thompson said, "we have to get an antidote. We have some of it, not enough, but will have enough shortly."
He said the president has to make a decision about "how to vaccinate all the health care workers, the first responders, police and firemen or everybody who wants to get it."
"But right now we do not have a licensed vaccine, and it is our position that we'd like to have the FDA approval, the safety approval, before those vaccines are given out to the American public."
He said 80 percent of the governors already had forwarded bioterrorism spending plans to Washington and received a share of the $1.1 billion his department set aside for help in bioterrorism defense.
"And we'll get another $1.5 billion, as soon as Congress appropriates the money," Mr. Thompson said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide