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Florida Starts Vaccinating Health Workers

February 11, 2003|From Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida began vaccinating public health workers against smallpox Monday, hoping to create a core group that is immune to the disease should it be used by bioterrorists.

Up to 2,000 state public health employees who would respond to such emergencies will be vaccinated, state officials said. In about two weeks, the vaccine will also be offered to about 30,000 hospital workers.

Smallpox vaccinations have begun in 18 states, although the number of volunteers has been fairly low. According to the federal government, about 800 people nationwide had received the vaccine through Friday. The goal is 500,000.

Health officials in Tennessee said Monday they had vaccinated 194 health-care workers during the first day of vaccinations there.

In Florida, Dr. Bill Tynan, the state's deputy epidemiologist, was first to be vaccinated, getting pricked 15 times with a tiny needle.

"We had a good turnout," Tynan said. "The numbers we had planned on are the numbers we've reached so far."

Monday's vaccinations were in three of Florida's four most-populated counties -- Miami-Dade, Broward and Hillsborough. Inoculations were expected to be offered in Palm Beach County on Wednesday.

In December, President Bush received the vaccine and ordered the vaccination of 500,000 military personnel in preparation for a possible war with Iraq, which may have biological weapons that employ smallpox.

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