NORTHFIELD, Ill. -- In a letter to House and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson, Paul A. Raslavicus, MD, FCAP, president of the College of American Pathologists (CAP) reaffirmed CAP's continuing support of a phased smallpox vaccination plan, similar to the one President Bush is scheduled to announce today. The Bush plan will vaccinate 500,000 military personnel and encourage smallpox vaccinations for emergency medical workers and response teams with vaccinations being made available to the public in 2004.
The Bush plan is expected to be consistent with the College of American Pathologists' new policy, announced on November 22, which supports voluntary smallpox vaccinations for "first responders" to a domestic bioterrorism attack including health care providers, certain laboratory workers, emergency room personnel, police, firefighters, medical examiners and others.
The CAP policy also supports making smallpox vaccinations available to the general public at a later date, but only after a licensed vaccine becomes available.
"The College supports the President's plans to offer a voluntary smallpox vaccination program to protect our nations citizens," said Raslavicus.
In his letter to Thompson, Raslavicus also cautioned the administration about the potentially damaging effects a mass smallpox vaccination program could have on the nation's blood supply.
"As you know, a deferral period has yet to be officially established for blood donations following smallpox vaccination. Current thinking is that the deferral period could be up to four weeks following vaccination. This deferral period would result in quick depletion of vital blood products, such as platelets, which have a five-day shelf life, after mass vaccination," wrote Raslavicus. "To avoid a significant disruption of needed blood and blood products, an important aspect of a mass vaccination program is to offer the vaccinations in a phased, staggered manner. A phased, staggered approach would allow for an effective vaccination program without threatening needed blood or blood products."
In his letter, Raslavicus also notes that widespread, pre-outbreak vaccinations should not be offered to the general public until a sufficient stock of Vaccinia Immune Globulin (VIG), a blood product used to treat immuno-suppressed patients with vaccine-associated infections, is developed.
" ... widespread, pre-outbreak vaccinations should not occur in the general public until a sufficient stock of VIG, a blood product used to treat immuno-suppressed patients with vaccine-associated infections, is developed. Again, a phased approach, to maximize the protection of those most at risk from bioterrorist attack while minimizing any potential danger associated with this vaccine, is recommended," wrote Raslavicus.
The College of American Pathologists is a medical society serving more than 16,000 physician members and the laboratory community throughout the world. It is the world's largest association composed exclusively of pathologists and is widely considered the leader in laboratory quality assurance. The CAP is an advocate for high-quality and cost-effective medical care.