Smallpox Vaccination

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The Alabama Department of Public Health is gearing up in case President Bush orders vaccinations for smallpox for some or all of the state's population.

The first step of such an order is likely to be vaccination of health care workers in emergency rooms, paramedics and others who would likely have first contact with the disease, which is fatal in about 30 percent of cases.

The state's health officer, Dr. Don Williamson, said Monday about 10,000 people in Alabama would likely be included in that first wave of vaccinations.

Williamson said he's currently preparing a report for the federal government that would show the number of sites and health workers needed to vaccinate Alabama's population over a 10-day period.

Williamson also said an outbreak of smallpox would be potentially catastrophic in this age of worldwide travel because of how quickly one person could spread it to others.

It's been years since there has been a reported case of smallpox and the vaccine has not been routinely given in the United States since 1972.