We may need vaccinations

Published: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 10:27 p.m.

I wonder if Dr. Small and Dr. Paling in "Why you don't need a smallpox vaccination" (Dec. 29), have failed to consider the logistics of responding to a major bacterial or viral attack?

We are all familiar with the excitement and apparent localized paralysis caused by a few anthrax letters. In a serious attack on us, the U.S. Post Office would probably deliver simultaneously large numbers of letters containing contaminants to every city in the United States, including ours.

There might well be numerous explosions (airplanes and dirty bombs) on the same day. Transportation might be snarled. Health facilities and providers could be swamped. Who is going to deliver and administer vaccines under such circumstances?

In the summer of 1951, an American merchant seaman walked into our emergency room at the U.S. Army's 155th Station Hospital in Yokohama, Japan. Within 24 hours he died, almost his entire body covered with subcutaneous hemorrhages. His final diagnosis was hemorrhagic smallpox.

It was amazing how this concentrated our attitudes toward infectious disease.

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