How Will Your ED Handle Smallpox Vaccinations?

Will first-time recipients of the smallpox vaccine experience serious illnesses? Should emergency staff who already have been vaccinated be chosen first for this round of smallpox vaccinations? The recent smallpox vaccination recommendations for hospitals bring up a host of questions. Will your hospital be ready?

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recently approved a plan that calls for smallpox immunization of 510,000 health care workers. The plan suggests that all hospitals designate a "smallpox care team" that will be immunized prior to any release of the virus. The committee recommends that the team include a minimum of 40 health care workers per hospital, including 15 ED physicians and nurses. Some hospitals will vaccinate 100 or more staff members.

The mass vaccinations bring up a number of important issues that could greatly affect EDs, and concrete plans for handling the vaccinations have not yet been developed. One out of every 1,000 adults who receives the vaccine for the first time experiences serious illness. Approximately half of all current health care workers were born after routine smallpox vaccination was stopped in 1971. The vaccinations also could affect staffing issues. Some reports have suggested that vaccine recipients will have to stay home from work for 2-3 weeks. EDs that already face overcrowding and a nursing shortage can’t afford to do without a portion of their staff for 2-3 weeks.

To help you prepare for sweeping procedural changes, Thomson American Health Consultants offers Imminent Smallpox Vaccinations in Hospitals: Consequences for You and Your Facility, a 90-minute audio conference Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 2-3:30 p.m., EST. This session, led by William Schaffner, MD, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, is designed to help you and your staff answer serious questions and prepare your facility for the inevitable. The cost of the program is $299, which includes 1.5 hours of free CE, CME, and critical care credits, and 2 hours of ACEP Category I credits. You can educate your entire facility for one low fee. For more information, or to register, call customer service at (800) 688-2421. When ordering, please refer to the effort code: 65341.