- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

CATONSVILLE, Md. Lorraine Quarrick typically spends her days counseling pregnant women, organizing family-planning clinics and giving flu immunization shots
On Thursday, she took time off from her job as a Howard County Health Department nurse to learn how to administer the vaccine for smallpox. Miss Quarrick is one of about 550 workers being trained to give the vaccinations to a team of about 6,000 other nurses and health care workers in the state.
The goal of the program, run by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is to have a vaccinated health work force that can provide a larger-scale vaccination if terrorists unleash smallpox in a biological attack in Maryland.
"In a situation like this, you feel like you can reach people," Miss Quarrick said.
In a few weeks, Miss Quarrick, 47, will get the vaccine, 15 pricks in her upper arm, so she will be immune to the disease when she administers the vaccine.
She and about 50 other volunteers, mostly nurses, gathered at Spring Grove Hospital Center on Thursday to watch a taped seminar showing various reactions to the vaccine.
Pictures of angry-looking, puffy pustules on rosy skin flashed on the screen. Two weeks after the shots, the vaccination spot crusts over, forming a permanent scar. And that's the normal reaction.
"Every time I come to another of these training seminars, I get these doubts like, 'Do I want to get this vaccine?' I still have this little fear," Miss Quarrick said.
Miss Quarrick and others gathered in small groups in a hospital auditorium as state health workers showed them how to give the shots. Nurses took turns holding the needles and dipping them in vials of saline, which took the place of the vaccine.
Khadijah Rasulullah, 45, slipped on her glasses so she could make sure the saline made it into the needle. "I'm going to make the skin kind of tight, and I'm going to do 15 pricks," she said to her partner, Beverly Kingsland, who rolled up her sleeve as part of the drill.
Miss Rasulullah, wearing latex gloves, then turned to a flesh-colored sponge that served as a human arm. Resting her wrist on the sponge, she jabbed it rapidly. All the pricks must be made in a 5-millimeter area within three seconds.
After the vaccination, nurses are to look for a drop of blood and rosy skin. Then they apply a bandage.
Instructor Beverly Alexander emphasized that nurses must wash their hands thoroughly after touching the vial, the needle and the vaccination site the arm of the patient.
The nurses repeated the instructions quietly to themselves, memorizing the order. They were given checklists to keep track of the process and the questions they are to ask each health care worker they vaccinate. Anyone who is pregnant, who has skin diseases, immunodeficiencies or eczema shouldn't get the vaccine, nurses were told.
Those people should get the vaccine only if they're at risk of being exposed to smallpox, according to a pamphlet issued by the state health department.
Last month President Bush ordered members of the military serving in high-risk areas to take the smallpox vaccine and was inoculated as well. He said for most people the risk of bioterrorism doesn't warrant vaccinations.
He announced the first vaccine program in a generation because the September 11 attacks have forced the United States to evaluate "old threats in a new light."

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