September 27, 2002
Doctors Applaud New White House Position on Smallpox
Washington- - The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) supports today’s announcement that the White House is leaning toward making smallpox vaccinations available to the public in advance of an attack or outbreak.
"If the news reports are accurate, we’re thrilled," said Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director of AAPS. "The public has been calling and writing us. They need to tell their President." In a letter sent to President Bush today, she writes: "Thank you for considering our proposal released earlier this week to make smallpox vaccine available to anyone who wants it in advance of an attack or outbreak. We respectfully urge you to implement this immediately, as any delay could cost thousands of lives in the event of an outbreak.
"The plan announced by the CDC to withhold smallpox vaccine until after an outbreak is fatally flawed, and would most likely lead to chaos and thousands of preventable deaths.
"They claim the vaccine is too dangerous for the general public. But children are routinely required to take vaccines against diseases much less serious than smallpox despite comparable side effects. For example, statistical projections estimate the number of deaths associated with administration of 300 million does of the smallpox vaccine would be 350 deaths. And yet there were 440 deaths associated with only 20 million doses of hepatitis b vaccine in the VAERS data base as of 1998.
"The CDC plan is overly optimistic. Their ring immunization plan is outdated in an age of bio-terrorism. In the days when this was effectively used, an outbreak consisted of a few cases in a population that had a high degree of immunity to begin with. Today, the entire U.S. population is susceptible. And an attack could cause thousands of simultaneous cases in many different areas.
"...Prudent medicine as well as public policy tells us the logical alternative is to make immunizations available, with full disclosure and informed consent, to those who want them. This will allow much more effective screening of those who are at a high risk of complications from the vaccine, and allow people who are more likely to be exposed to voluntarily be inoculated...."
The letter then goes on to outline the medical argument for advance inoculations, such as:
The letter concludes: "Mr. President, AAPS has been very vocal in its opposition to mandatory vaccines, and we don’t make these recommendations lightly. But we fear the alternative will be forced immunizations in the face of mass exposure. The potential loss of life is unimaginable. Please allow voluntarily screening and vaccination now. "
AAPS is a non-partisan professional association of physicians in all specialties, dedicated since 1943 to the protection of the patient-physician relationship. Dr. Orient, a board-certified internist, is Clinical Lecturer at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. She also serves as Executive Director of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness.