Smallpox vaccination bill protecting hospitals passes

Congress has passed the Smallpox Emergency Personnel Protection Act of 2003. The legislation provides for changes in the government's voluntary smallpox program by allowing hospitals to provide vaccinations without fear of liability if someone they vaccinate should become ill. It also includes a compensation fund that pays up to $50,000 a year for those sustaining a disability after vaccination and a death benefit of $262,000, an important first step in providing a safety net for those few people who suffer an adverse reaction to the vaccine. Congress also approved $43 million to help fund the bill.

Duke offers occupational medicine certification

Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, is planning its fourth annual certificate program in Occupational and Environmental Medicine for physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and physicians, to be held Oct. 5-10, 2003. This on-campus program offers CME and graduate credit.

Total costs are $2,750, which includes tuition, private accommodations at the R. David Thomas Executive Conference Center, and all meals.

Complete information and a registration form are available on the web at Or contact program director, Patricia Dieter, at, for a printed brochure and registration form. Registration deadline is June 1, 2003.

First installment of HIPAA enforcement rule issued

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has placed on display an interim final rule establishing procedures for the imposition of civil monetary penalties on entities that violate standards adopted under the administrative simplification provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The rule, published in the April 17 Federal Register, is the first installment of HHS’ enforcement rule for the provisions and informs regulated entities of the agency’s approach to enforcement. The rule is effective 30 days after publication and provides for a 60-day comment period.

CDC software tracks vaccinated workers

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a Hospital Smallpox Vaccination Monitoring System intended to help hospitals monitor and track workers who receive the smallpox vaccine.

The web-based application is a component of the CDC Smallpox Vaccination Program being offered as a free service to hospitals. It is designed to capture data such as symptoms reported by vaccine recipients, fitness for duty, and workdays lost, and to produce summary and overview reports of the hospital’s experience. More information, including how to enroll in the voluntary program, is available at

HHS proposes smallpox compensation for injured

Responding to concerns from health care workers, hospitals, and public health departments, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working with Congress to establish a limited compensation package for caregivers who are injured or die as a result of receiving the smallpox vaccine. The administration's proposal is based on a compensation package similar to that currently available to police officers and firefighters.

The Chicago-based American Hospital Association, which has been pushing HHS for better protection of hospital employees and patients, is reviewing the department's proposal to see how well it addresses the association's concerns.