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Nurses Group Opposes Smallpox Vaccinations

State association cites risks, says Bush plan 'inflames public fears.'

January 24, 2003|Eric Malnic | Times Staff Writer

Citing its opposition to unilateral war against Iraq and other concerns, the California Nurses Assn. said Thursday it opposes the Bush administration's smallpox vaccination program, which is scheduled to start today.

The program "inflames public fears, contributing to efforts to generate support for an ill-conceived war," the association said in a statement.

The "CNA condemns all acts of terrorism against civilians and endorses international initiatives by the United Nations to promote disarmament through peaceful means."

The nurses said that although there is no proven evidence of the likelihood of a smallpox attack, there are known dangers from vaccination that can include skin rashes, brain inflammation and blindness.

They said the federal government has failed to provide compensation for those who would be harmed by the vaccine, and said the diversion of funds for the vaccination program is shortchanging other health programs.

The plan Bush announced Dec. 13 calls for the vaccination of 500,000 military personnel and 439,000 doctors, nurses and public health workers who would voluntarily identify, treat and investigate suspected cases of smallpox.

Starting next year, the vaccine would be made available to all Americans, but Bush stressed that the government was not recommending the vaccine for everyone.

Bush has acknowledged that the vaccine presents some risks, but warned that the smallpox virus still exists in some laboratories and could be used as a terrorist weapon.

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