NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Many Communities Unprepared for Biowarfare

August 28, 2002

Although the federal government has beefed up its drug and vaccine stockpiles to respond to a bioterrorism incident, many local health departments lack the facilities, trained staff and ability to deliver vaccines and other basic health service to deal with such an incident.

That is the picture that emerged yesterday from the first meeting of the Health and Human Services Secretary's Council on Public Health Preparedness.

  • Smallpox can be prevented with vaccinations, even a few days after exposure.
  • The government now has enough vaccine to protect 155 million people -- and the capability to ship vaccine to every U.S. city.
  • During the past 11 months, the federal government has delivered $1.1 billion to states to rebuild public health services which had suffered from years of neglect.
  • Council members said the investment has already paid off in states coping with West Nile virus.

Government officials reported that West Nile has also served as a useful test of systems established to combat bioterrorism. But regarding smallpox, many cities aren't prepared to provide the shots, screen out those who may be harmed by the vaccine and educate millions of people about the vaccine's risks, experts told committee members.

Source: Steve Sternberg, "Cities Lacking Biowar Training," USA Today, August 28, 2002.

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