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Standby Plan For Smallpox

The federal government is making plans to vaccinate all Americans - if necessary - in the event of a smallpox attack.

The Centers for Disease Control Director, Dr. Julie Gerberding, explains the standby plans to The Early Show.

Dr. Gerberding says millions of Americans would be vaccinated only if it became necessary. She explains this is a change from a previous plan by the government that called for "ring vaccination." The initial plan was to vaccinate only those who came into contact with someone with the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control is instructing states on how to prepare for a case of smallpox, what supplies they need and how to logistically accomplish such a mass vaccination.

Dr. Gerberding says millions of doses could be distributed to an area in which a case of smallpox outbreak was detected. The Center for Disease Control wants all the health officials from every state to know what they need on hand in case of a smallpox attack. They also want local health officials to know how to set up a clinic and run it properly.

If a case was detected, the vaccine would be very helpful - even days after exposure. Dr. Gerberding says firm plans to distribute vaccines should ease fears so panic would not ensure.

There are now about 155 million doses of vaccines ready and there should be enough for all 290 million Americans by the end of the year. Now, health officials say that 75 million doses of the vaccine could be shipped in a single day.

Dr. Gerberding says some have questioned who should be vaccinated now. Should hospital workers, firemen and other first responders to an outbreak be vaccinated in the near future? Dr. Gerberding believes the White House will make a decision soon but it will not be an easy one because the vaccine has numerous side effects and for some people, there could even be a chance of fatal complications.