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Posted on: Tuesday, February 4, 2003
The Other Side of the Needle email to the editor
By Michael Dorausch, D.C.

It appeared in the New York Times, on Thursday January 30th, health-care leaders had serious doubts about the president's smallpox vaccination program that would involve the very health-care professionals asked to administer or receive the vaccine.

How many people reading that article in the New York Times paused to recognize the massive paradigm shift that has occurred in just the past decade involving the practice of vaccination?

It was not long ago when those questioning vaccination policies were addressed as fanatics and/or overly religious zealots. That was certainly the case when mothers of schoolchildren questioned public health policy regarding smallpox vaccination in the 1900s.

Who is questioning the policies of smallpox vaccination today? According to the Times article, the health and safety director of a union that represents 350,000 health-care workers is. Chiefs of pediatric hospitals, and even some public health officials are also asking questions. And more than 80 of the countries 3000 hospitals, including some of the leading ones, according to the article, are requesting more information.

Chief concerns among those questioning vaccination are that vaccinated health workers could possibly suffer side effects and/or accidentally infect members of their own family or patients with the vaccinia virus. There are also concerns that if a family member suffered a bad reaction such as a life-threatening case of encephalitis they may not be covered by workers' compensation.

Ask many a "fanatical mom" why they have been requesting more information when it comes to the vaccination policies and procedures involving their own children and they will cite similar concerns as mentioned above. Today, in part, thanks to the recent smallpox vaccination program, many health workers and their families are getting a glimpse of what life is like on the other side of the needle.

According to the article, when the vaccine was last in routine use, it caused up to 52 life-threatening complications and two deaths for every million persons vaccinated. How many moms were informed of those numbers in the 1960s when these vaccines were in common use? Did the nurse charged with administering the vaccine inform parents of the risks associated?

According to the article, a health and safety director asked that there be "a delay in the program until workers could be taught more about the risks, and until all the worries about compensation for those suffering side effects were worked out."

Isn't that similar to what moms have been asking for years? Inform us of the risks, show us the science, allow us to make informed decisions. I'd like to see the face of a health care worker that when asking about risks or compensation is told, "it's for the good of the herd, now roll up your sleeve."

The New York Times: Health Care Leaders Voice Doubts on Smallpox Inoculations

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