Maine CDC Press Release

March 3, 2003

State Begins Vaccination of Public Health Response Team

Contact: Dora Anne Mills MD, MPH
  Director, Bureau of Health
  Tel: (207) 287-8016
  TTY:(207) 287-8066
  Fax: (207) 287-9058

As part of the state’s continuing effort to guard against a bioterrorist threat, the Maine Department of Human Services today began vaccinating members of its Public Health Response Team. The Public Health Response Team is being vaccinated and trained so that in the event of a smallpox occurrence, they will be able to vaccinate others, care for smallpox victims, and investigate the source of any potential outbreak.

DHS Acting Commissioner, Peter Walsh, noted that approximately 50 employees from DHS’s Bureau of Health and the City of Portland both would be vaccinated in this first phase of bioterrorism preparedness. “We are very fortunate,“ said Commissioner Walsh, “to have such a dedicated corps of public health professionals in our state who have volunteered to be part of this vital response team.”

The smallpox vaccine being used has been in storage at federal facilities for the past 30 years, and today’s vaccination represents the first time that the vaccine has been used in Maine since the 1970s. Volunteers have been rigorously screened and will be carefully monitored over the next three weeks for any potential side effects.

State health officials anticipate vaccinating up to 3,000 health care workers in April and have asked hospitals and home health care agencies to participate in this effort. A number of hospitals and agencies have already indicated that they will be participating. This will constitute the second phase of the smallpox response team to be trained and vaccinated.

Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the Director of DHS’s Bureau of Health, noted that the training of public health and health care workers on smallpox and other issues would continue. “Our efforts today are part of a much larger effort to help Maine become better prepared for any emergency,” she pointed out. “This includes not only a bioterrorist threat, but other public health emergencies such as an influenza outbreak, and natural disasters such as ice storms and hurricanes.“

State health officials indicated that all Mainers can participate in the emergency preparedness effort by creating a home emergency kit and a communications plan for their individual families. More information and assistance on this and other related issues is available on the web at www.mainepublichealth.org or www.redcross.org.