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SMALLPOX ALERT; All Brits to be given jabs against bio-terror threat.

Byline: Pippa Crear

THE Government is preparing for a mass smallpox vaccination in the event of a bioterrorist attack, it has emerged.

Chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson outlined the Government's plans for vaccinating the entire British population.

The Department of Health stressed, however, that preparations were ongoing and there was not an increased risk of attack. Under the plan, key health care workers in each area of the country would be vaccinated as a precautionary measure so they could respond to any outbreak.

``We believe we should have plans in place both to search and contain with limited numbers of people being vaccinated around the source of the outbreak, but also we should have in place enough vaccine to vaccinate on a mass population basis if necessary,'' Sir Liam told the BBC.

``It's when rather than whether and it is who should be vaccinated, because a proper counter plan to a smallpox attack would involve having a group of essential workers who were immune to the disease through vaccination.''

If an outbreak did occur the population in that area would be offered vaccina-tion. Only if there were numerous outbreaks would the Government consider a mass vaccination programme as a last resort. Previously the Government has only talked about plans for limited vaccinations programme to isolate any new outbreak.

A Department of Health spokeswoman confirmed that the Government would consider vaccinating the entire population but insisted there was no increased risk of attack.

``The primary strategy is to ring vaccinate as a first line of defence - that means if there is an incident we would vaccinate in that particular area,'' the spokeswoman said.

``But obviously we're planning for every eventuality so the CMO would consider mass vaccination if necessary.

``The department has been talking about this since September 11 last year because that brought it more to the surface - lots of other countries around the world are doing the same thing.''

The Department of Health refused to give details of vaccine supply or of contingency plans as that information could potentially be used by terrorists. Two weeks ago the US government unveiled its own plans to vaccinate the entire American population - 228 million people - against smallpox within seven days of any terrorist biological attack.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 9, 2002
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