Connecticut begins smallpox shot effort with three healthcare workers


Jan 24, 2003 (CIDRAP news) – Connecticut health officials announced today that the state has begun carrying out a plan to give smallpox shots to up to 6,000 healthcare and public health workers, but the Associated Press reported that only three people actually received shots today.

Plans called for vaccinations to start today with a "Genesis Team" of about 20 healthcare workers, who will later administer the shots to others around the state, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CDPH). But only three members of the team were vaccinated today, according to the AP.

The three apparently are the first in the nation to be vaccinated under the Bush administration's plan to immunize up to 500,000 civilian public health and healthcare workers as a precaution against possible terrorist release of the smallpox virus.

The AP report quoted Dr. Michael Grey, head of the Genesis Team, as saying that the number of volunteers for the shots declined all week and dropped sharply when a nurses' union recommended waiting until questions about liability are resolved. Grey, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Connecticut, said the union and hospital officials are discussing the situation.

Those getting the shots were James Hadler, the state epidemiologist; Richard Garibaldi, chair of the University of Connecticut department of medicine, and Robert Fuller, an emergency room physician at the university, according to the AP.

In a news release, CDPH officials said their plan establishes a smallpox medical care team at each of the state's 32 acute care hospitals. "Based on preliminary figures that we have collected to date, all of Connecticut's hospitals are participating in the Stage I program and we will have volunteers to support a core statewide smallpox team," said Christopher Cannon, system director for the Yale–New Haven Health System's Office of Emergency Preparedness.

The Genesis Team is composed of volunteers from the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, CDPH officials said. Plans call for that team to vaccinate members of the hospital teams as well as public health response teams during the last 3 weeks in February. Additional hospital workers around the state will be vaccinated in March, and the entire Stage I vaccination effort is expected to be finished by late April, officials said.

Connecticut's plan also calls for setting up a vaccination team in each of 41 regions of the state in case mass vaccinations are necessary, the CDPH said. The department is seeking 1,400 volunteers for those teams.

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