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LOS ANGELES -- In response to President Bush's plan to vaccinate 500,000 healthcare workers, caregivers are holding nationwide press conferences across the country today, including Los Angeles, to warn that the plan lacks basic safeguards needed to protect them and their patients.
Pregnant women, cancer patients, people who are HIV positive, and victims of skin conditions like eczema could be at particular risk without better protections, such as access to medical screenings. Persons with such conditions also could be put at risk from people in their household who receive the vaccination, or from accidental exposure through contact with hospital workers who have been vaccinated against smallpox.
Union healthcare workers say they are ready and willing to protect the health of Californians, but want to make sure that any vaccination plan is carried out in the safest way possible, with protections for patients and caregivers, and doesn't cause more harm than good.
Last month, Congress passed legislation that will allow drug companies to avoid liability for producing the smallpox vaccine and prevent those administering it from being sued. But the Bush plan does not provide for people who get sick as a result of receiving the vaccine or coming into contact with someone who has received it.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation's largest healthcare organization, has met with Bush administration officials to voice concerns about the proposed plan. At the state and local levels, SEIU nurses and other caregivers are meeting with hospital management and public health officials to find ways to ensure the smallpox vaccinations are administered as safely as possible.