August 4, 2003

Statement by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union

On the eve of the initiation of President Bush’s proposed Smallpox Vaccination Program for health care workers, the UFCW is asking for changes in the program to assure needed protections for workers and patients as they do their part to win the war on terrorism.

Marilyn Savage, President of the United Staff Nurses UFCW Local 141 said: “”While our nurses recognize smallpox as a potential threat, the real enemy is inadequate staffing in health care facilities to take care of patients. To lose health care workers to illness from vaccination would worsen the problem. Our hospitals are saying they need more time and information so they can make decisions about this vaccination program. Let’s give them the time.””

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects that as many as 42 of every 1 million people inoculated will suffer severe side effects from the vaccination. One or two will likely die. The vaccine is made from live virus and could be dangerous particularly for pregnant women, children younger than 1, people with skin conditions and anyone with a weakened immune system from chemotherapy, organ transplants or HIV.

Health care workers need more education about smallpox, the risks of vaccination, the current lack of compensation for medical expenses or lost income for any health care worker who suffers severe side effects from the vaccine.

“”Our members are ready to do their part but in return they’re asking for more information and protection. It’s not right for the Bush Administration to offer protection from liability to hospitals but no protection for injury or lost income for individual health care workers, “”says President Doug Dority.