State Asks Counties to Put Smallpox Vaccine on Hold
Krishnamurthy, Madhu, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Madhu Krishnamurthy Daily Herald Staff Writer
The Illinois Department of Public Health has asked counties across the state to temporarily put smallpox vaccination clinics on hold because of a possible link between the vaccine and heart problems.
The decision came after the deaths of two health care workers and a soldier last week in Maryland and Florida. All three suffered heart attacks after recent vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the deaths and reports of heart complications observed in military personnel and health workers vaccinated elsewhere.
Lake County began vaccinating its employees for smallpox last week, while DuPage, Kane and Cook counties have not yet started.
So far, there have been no complications with the five Lake County workers who were inoculated, county epidemiologist Victor Plotkin said. However, the new concern further narrows the list of potential candidates.
"It is reasonable to assume that the number of individuals who will be eligible to receive the vaccination would decline," Plotkin said. "We want to take no risk at our department and make sure that we screen people thoroughly."
Already, counties have had a low turnout in volunteers for the vaccination. Officials worry a possible connection to heart problems will scare people even more.
"The participation of health care workers in DuPage County has been low," said health department Executive Director Leland Lewis. But he doesn't see this as a severe setback.
County officials are trying to get volunteers from local hospitals, many of which have elected not to participate. …