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Smallpox Vaccinations Begin in Fairfax County

Thirteen medical personnel were the first to volunteer to receive the smallpox vaccination in Fairfax County Thursday, March 13, at the Joseph Willard Center in Fairfax. The 13 will now begin vaccinating other health-care workers, on a weekly basis, as part of Phase 1 of the state's smallpox preparedness and response plan. The vaccination of so-called first responders, namely police officers, fire and rescue personnel and emergency medical technicians, is part of Phase 2 of the plan. The vaccine is being administered on a volunteer basis.

In February, the state Department of Health began providing the smallpox vaccine to the local health districts. As of March 14, 338 volunteers across the state had been vaccinated, with only one reaction. An unnamed volunteer experienced headache, fever and a mild rash, which has since cleared, nine days after receiving the vaccine on Feb. 19. The health district in which the vaccine was administered is also not being released to further protect the health-care worker's identity.

"People aren't rushing into it. There's no hurry," said Lucy Caldwell, spokesperson for the state Department of Health. "People are taking their time to make the decision."

The state health department is not seeking a minimum number of volunteers for the vaccine, said Caldwell, but so far, everyone who volunteered during training seminars held earlier this year are following through and receiving the vaccine. Phase 2 of the plan will begin as more vaccine is made available and is expected to overlap with Phase 1.

"Everybody's cooperating. People who have signed up to do it have shown up," Caldwell said. "We're still educating people and working with the local hospitals. The hospitals are also working on their own program to get people vaccinated."