Public-health workers say as the first civilians who’d get vaccine for smallpox, they want more assurances to answer their concerns. University of Iowa Hospitals nurse Mary Schlichte is spokeswoman for SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, which represents healthcare workers. She stresses this is vaccinating people “pre-event,” before there’s any smallpox outbreak, but though they should be immunized against such an outbreak, she says healthcare workers want the administration to have a better safeguard plan for those asked to volunteer to get the shot. Schlichte, a registered nurse, says so far the protective shots have big drawbacks for those who’d get them. She says President Bush and Congress have protected companies that produce the vaccine but not enough to protect healthcare workers and their families, whose health could be affected. Schlichte explains a nurse who’s had the inoculation would risk exposing an immuno-suppressed patient, or their own family, for a period of time after the shot. She says we need a better plan in place to keep patients and the general population from being exposed BY the healthcare workers till they’re past that infectious stage. There’s where the union comes in, because Schlicte says a worker who gets sick from the shot, as one-third are expected to do, or who must stay off the job to keep from infecting patients, shouldn’t lose pay. Some people who get the shot get very ill, and she says it’s a labor issue whether losing work from that illness following the vaccination will mean she gets disciplined at work. Schlichte says the healthcare workers are not demanding a guarantee that they won’t get sick from the smallpox shots, but want plans in place to handle temporary staffing shortfalls and other situations that result from inoculating the healthcare workforce. Schlichte recently attended a union conference in Washington about smallpox inoculation issues.
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