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Fighting terror

Smallpox vaccine program falls short

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2003


ATLANTA -- Four months after President Bush summoned millions of doctors, nurses, firefighters and police officers to form a nationwide network of smallpox response teams, officials running the immunization program concede it has fallen far short of expectations.

The campaign, portrayed as the centerpiece of the administration's efforts to protect against bioterrorism, has proven to be more expensive, less popular and medically riskier than initially thought. And as a result of overly optimistic projections, tens of thousands of doses of the precious vaccine are in danger of spoiling if states cannot recruit more volunteers.

The disappointing response, coupled with doubts that Iraq will launch a smallpox attack against the United States, have prompted a growing chorus of public health leaders to call for a halt.

"Everything should be on hold," said Frank Judson, director of Denver Public Health and a veteran of the smallpox global eradication campaign. "There should be no further effort to vaccinate Americans unless by some totally improbable action it shows up in Iraq."

A smaller, but equally passionate, cadre of medical experts fear the slow pace of smallpox inoculations suggests a complacency that could have severe repercussions.

"The threat is definitely real. This is a dangerous time," said Daniel Lucey, director of the Center for Biologic Counterterrorism and Emerging Diseases at the Washington Hospital Center. He said it is crucial for health care workers to be immunized "for ourselves to be protected, and to then be able to take care of patients and contribute to a large-scale vaccination program."

Bomb suspects confess

DAVAO, Philippines -- Two suspects have confessed to involvement in separate blasts that killed 38 people in the Philippines, prosecutors said Saturday.

They were among five arrested Wednesday in connection with the bombings at Davao's airport and at a passenger ferry terminal.

Shooting ruled terrorism

LOS ANGELES -- An Egyptian immigrant who opened fire inside Los Angeles International Airport committed an act of terrorism related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but he wasn't tied to any terrorist organizations, federal officials said.

Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, 41, killed two people at the ticket counter of El Al, Israel's national airline in the July Fourth attack before he was fatally shot by an airline security guard.

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