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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  December 13, 2002


Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner
(609) 984-7160

Statement by NJ Commissioner of Health and Senior Services on
President Bush's Smallpox Vaccination Plan Announcement
December 13, 2002

Today President Bush announced a national plan to begin smallpox vaccination in early 2003. New Jersey fully supports the national plan, and has already begun implementing the programs and processes needed to carry out each phase of vaccination called for by the President.

Vaccination will begin with military personnel and volunteers from among the nation's public health and health care workers. A second phase will include first responders who could come in contact with a smallpox victim, including members of the police, fire and emergency medical services. Eventually, all Americans will be given the opportunity to receive vaccination after the federal government has licensed additional vaccine in early 2004.

Developing mass immunization capability was one of the recommendations of the MEDPREP/Terrorism Advisory Committee, which I have chaired since it was formed in November 2001 by then Governor-Elect McGreevey. This team of the state's leading experts in health care, public health and emergency management has developed an agile, coordinated and comprehensive bio-terrorism preparedness and response plan for New Jersey.

New Jersey submitted its smallpox vaccination preparedness plan to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on December 9 for review. This plan will serve as the blueprint for public health officials, hospital staff, emergency workers and the public to follow in the event of an outbreak of smallpox.

The first step for New Jersey will be to vaccinate up to 15,000 public health and health care workers beginning in late January. These volunteers will then serve on Public Health and Hospital Health Care Response Teams which will be responsible for carrying out subsequent vaccination programs, investigating potential smallpox cases, and caring for any victims should the need arise.

In support of the vaccination program, New Jersey on Wednesday carried out the first public test of our innovative New Jersey Vaccination Information Tracking and Logistics System (NJ-VITALS), which is one of the key programs New Jersey has implemented to address the threats of bioterrorism. The successful test confirms that New Jersey is prepared to begin the first phase of vaccination, and will soon have the ability to implement a mass vaccination program if necessary.

New Jersey is in the process of implementing the nation's only non-interruptible radio network linking all 85 acute care hospitals, county health and LINCS offices, and more than 20 state agencies. This network will provide organizations responsible for responding to an emergency with the ability to initiate and maintain the uninterrupted communication necessary for an agile and coordinated response.

In addition, New Jersey is one of the first states to implement bio-terrorism rapid response teams comprised of health care experts who can be dispatched anywhere in the state to investigate a health emergency, such as a suspected smallpox case, within hours. This system has already been employed and has worked effectively and efficiently.

Next week, five public health officials from around the state will attend a day-long vaccination training course at the CDC in Atlanta. They will then act as "premiere educators" to train the public health and health care workers in New Jersey who will be participating in the statewide vaccination program.

Officials from the Department of Health and Senior Services also will be meeting next week with representatives from each of the 85 acute care hospitals in the state to review the state's plan and discuss resources for implementation.

The State of New Jersey is coordinating its preparedness efforts with county and local health authorities and the federal CDC.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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