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FOR RELEASE: February 6, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Oklahoma Receives First Shipment of Smallpox Vaccine

The Oklahoma State Department of Health today received its first shipment of smallpox vaccine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five hundred doses of vaccine, as well as vaccinator needles and information kits, were included in this initial delivery.

Within the next few weeks, the Oklahoma State Department will begin vaccinating a core group of employees from the state health department’s central office and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and Tulsa City-County Health Department. (See news conference/media availability announcement at the end of this news release.) These employees have volunteered to receive the vaccine in an early test to allow health officials to practice vaccine administration in a clinic set up and to allow for daily follow-up observation and care for each individual. The state health department has already conducted several nurse vaccinator trainings throughout the state to teach nurses how to administer the smallpox vaccination and monitor those who are vaccinated.

Following this first round of vaccinations, the state health department will begin its Phase I “pre-event” smallpox vaccination plan, which includes vaccinating health care response teams who would have a key role in responding to a smallpox outbreak as a result of a terrorist attack. These teams will be vaccinated so they will be able to vaccinate others and provide critical services, such as outbreak investigation, caring for the sick, coordinating and managing response to the outbreak, and maintaining public order. This plan is in keeping with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson’s declaration on Jan. 27 that allows states to begin their smallpox vaccination programs.

While the smallpox vaccine is very effective at preventing the disease, it does pose some health risks, thus vaccination of the general public is not planned at this time.

SEE ATTACHED MEDIA ADVISORY

Media Advisory

What: News Conference on Smallpox Vaccination Program
When: 11 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2003
Where: Oklahoma State Department of Health,1000 Northeast Tenth Street, Oklahoma City, ROOM 307

Why: Smallpox is a contagious, and in some cases, fatal infectious disease caused by the variola virus. Approximately 30 percent of people who contract the more common form of the disease die. The last case of smallpox in the United States was in 1949, and the last natural case in the world occurred in Somalia in 1977. Routine smallpox vaccinations were discontinued in the United States in 1972.

While it is believed that the risk of an intentional release of smallpox virus is low, the consequence of an outbreak would be great. Oklahoma’s plan to assure it is prepared to meet such a potential threat includes vaccinating a limited number of key people against smallpox prior to an actual event. At this news conference, the Oklahoma State Department of Health will announce its plan to vaccinate a core group of public health employees who have volunteered to be the first nonmilitary persons to receive the smallpox vaccine in Oklahoma. Information will also be provided on the state’s plan to expand its vaccination efforts to public health and hospital response teams so they could respond to an outbreak without risk of contracting smallpox.

Media Availability: A demonstration vaccination event will follow the news conference. Nurse vaccinators will vaccinate at least two employees who have volunteered to receive the vaccine and who have agreed to be interviewed and photographed. This will be the only state-coordinated media opportunity that will be held in association with smallpox vaccinations at this time.

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