Smallpox Vaccinations

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President Bush is set to unveil his plans for administering the smallpox vaccine. But even before the plan is unveiled, debate on the issue has already started.

The Rockford Institute held a debate on homeland security. It is perfect timing for them to address the controversial issue of small pox vaccinations.

Under the president's small pox vaccination plan, inoculations would be mandatory for those in the military. It would eventually be available for civilians on a voluntary basis. But some already see a problem with this.

"I'm afraid that a lot of people will put themselves at risk without being in any real danger," says Scott Richert of chronicles magazine.

The side effects from the smallpox vaccine can be serious, permanent and possibly deadly.

Stephen Presser, Professor of Business and Law at Northwestern University says, "As far as we know there is a statistical probability that if you vaccinate enough people some of them will die from the vaccine."

That's a risk Belvidere resident James Smith is not willing to take for him or his children. "I would do anything to protect the health and welfare of my children, but no one is 100% sure this is safe."

Richert agrees. "If you're going into a war zone that's one thing, but for people in Rockford it's not necessary."

But Richert questions whether the president's plan will expand. "Whether this is actually a sort of first step in mandatory small pox vaccinations for the population as a whole."

Experts say the threat of smallpox being intentionally released is slim, but Richert is cautious about how truthful the government is being. "If what they've been saying for years now is true, then there is no threat because we're supposed to know where all the smallpox is."

Both Richert and Presser said that they would not consider getting the smallpox vaccination if it became available to the public.