Florida health officials plan to resume the state's smallpox vaccination program next week. The state temporarily halted vaccinations Wednesday following the fatal heart attack of a St. Petersburg health care worker who'd recently received the vaccine. There was also a second heart attack death in Maryland. First responders are next on the list for the vaccinations, but they will now be going through a tougher screening process.
These first responders are practicing how to handle a disaster that could involve chemical or biological weapons, like the deadly smallpox virus.
As he watched the exercise, Lt. Bernard Barrington said he still plans to get a smallpox vaccine himself in spite of the risk of complications. He wants to be protected so he can help if there is a smallpox outbreak.
These first responders are next on the list for the state's smallpox vaccine program and the state wants to make sure they're protected too
Following the fatal heart attacks of two vaccine recipients including one in St. Petersburg, the state health department is toughening restrictions for who's eligible. Dr. Fermin Arguello says any history of heart trouble will now rule you out.
But Barrington expects there will still be plenty of volunteers.
With the new screening criteria in place, the smallpox vaccines are scheduled to be made available to 400,000 first responders later this year.
The federal Centers for Disease Control has teamed up with the Florida Health Department to investigate whether the smallpox vaccine contributed to the heart attack victim's death. The state does not plan to start offering smallpox vaccinations to the general public until next year at the earliest.