LOS ANGELES Twenty-seven members of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services received smallpox vaccinations today as part of the voluntary vaccination program to help protect the public from the potential threat of a terrorist attack using smallpox. Under a program directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) smallpox vaccine is being offered to specific public health and medical staff who would be most likely to respond if there was an outbreak of the disease.
The individuals vaccinated today are key members of our rapid response teams who will assess suspected cases of smallpox and other serious communicable diseases, said Jonathan Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and County Health Officer. These teams provide early warning and give us the information to control the disease as quickly as possible. We also vaccinated nurses who will be trained as vaccinators should we need to quickly implement widespread vaccination.
Next month, the department plans to vaccinate key rapid response personnel from other agencies including the FBI, Sheriffs department, Department of Mental Health and the Coroners office.
Medical staff from hospitals with emergency departments will also be vaccinated from hospitals who have indicated they will participate in this early stage. There are 81 hospitals with emergency departments and two veterans hospitals that qualify for the program. Based on preliminary information this week, 53 hospitals have requested nearly 3400 doses of the vaccine; seven hospitals have indicated they do not plan to participate at this time. The remaining hospitals have been in communications with the health department and should determine their status by next week.
I am proud of the staff in this public health department, said Dr. Fielding. They have worked around the clock over the past few months to increase our ability to protect the public. For us, protecting the public is job number one.
Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 3,800 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $465 million.