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Smallpox Vaccinations Would Save Many Lives

June 20, 2002

Re "U.S. Weighs Risk of Smallpox, and Risk of Smallpox Vaccine," June 16: There is no perfect vaccine. If one compares the effects of smallpox (15% to 40% death rate) with the risk of the vaccine (an estimated one or two deaths per million of those vaccinated) there is hardly a question about choice. Smallpox is not pleasant. The virus spreads to all organs and there is considerable suffering on the part of the patient.

Eradication of the disease (1977) resulted from a World Health Organization program to vaccinate all susceptible individuals, thereby breaking the chain of transmission. I recall being vaccinated as a child and every time I traveled overseas. It was a routine and required vaccination, eliminating the potential for contracting a very serious disease, and there was little discussion about potential side effects.

We immunize against measles, polio, chicken pox and other diseases. Occasionally there are side effects. The virulence of these diseases pales beside that of smallpox. If we are willing to vaccinate after a potential bioterrorism attack, why not now? Prevention is easier than trying to stop the spread of the disease in a population.

Fred A. Rosenberg

Professor of Microbiology

California Lutheran University

Thousand Oaks

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