Some Officers to Get Smallpox Vaccine

Posted May 9, 2003 at 5:22pm

The Attending Physician’s office is preparing to vaccinate up to 100 Capitol Police officers against smallpox within the next two weeks.

Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said officers in specialty units such as the Containment Emergency Response Team — whom he called “more likely to be at the epicenter” of an event or biological attack — will be offered the vaccine.

“People who are most likely to get shots are working with the Office of the Attending Physician,” Gainer said.

Between 50 and 100 officers are being screened for eligibility on a voluntary basis, according to a spokesman for the Attending Physician’s office. The law-enforcement agency has nearly 1,400 sworn officers and another 227 civilian staff members.

Each officer is required to attend an orientation class on the vaccine, used to protect against a disease that has not been seen in the United States since 1949.

The Attending Physician’s office will also set up private appointments with officers to discuss the benefits and risks of the vaccine and to conduct full reviews of their medical histories.

The office will adhere to guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for administering the vaccination. The CDC recommends that the vaccine not be given to anyone with weakened immune systems, heart problems, certain skins conditions such as eczema, and pregnant or nursing women.

Once those steps are completed, the Attending Physician’s office should be able to complete the vaccinations in a one-day period.

The officers will be required to return to the office to watch for adverse reactions that could potentially be caused by the vaccine.

“They have to be monitored daily,” the spokesman said.

The Attending Physician’s office cannot release information about individual Members, but several lawmakers have acknowledged that they have received the vaccine.

Among those now vaccinated are several who could potentially serve as first responders in a biological attack is Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), a registered nurse. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a surgeon, has also received the vaccine.