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County eases financial risk of vaccination

To spark involvement in the smallpox vaccination program, the Island County Commissioners approved last week an action to lessen the risks to health care workers participating in the voluntary program.

Island County will reimburse health care workers who participate in the smallpox vaccination program. Should a health care worker become ill from the smallpox vaccination, Island County will reimburse the employee any expenses that are not covered by medical insurance or by the state Department of Labor and Industries.

Health care officials had been concerned that participants who get vaccinated would not be compensated by Labor and Industries if they become sick after getting vaccinated.

Approximately 1,000 people of every million vaccinated for smallpox need medical attention; 15 per million become seriously ill and one or two people per million die as a result of the vaccination, according to information provided by the Island County Health Department.

Possible side effects of the vaccine include fever, rash, headaches and body aches.

So far, one Island County health care worker has received the vaccination, according to county health officer Roger Case. He explained that most people haven't seen enough evidence to warrant participation in a program that has health risks.

The person vaccinated got his dose last week at Camp Murray in Tacoma. He will help administer vaccinations when a regional clinic for volunteers opens in March.

"Since it's voluntary, I totally agree," Case said.

Eligible to volunteer for the vaccine are health care workers who would be the first to come into contact with the disease.

Case said he hopes that four to five health care workers will be vaccinated and that training will be provided on administering the vaccine.

Participants will be vaccinated with the vaccinia virus which is related to the smallpox virus and helps the body build an immunity. The effort was sparked by nationwide fears of a bioterrorism attack using the smallpox virus.

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