Coast Health Care Workers Vaccinated Against Smallpox

Health care workers are the first responders in the event of a smallpox outbreak. So they are the first ones who get vaccinated against the contagious disease.

"For the first few days you'll just have relatively small amount of redness," Health Department Nurse Dorothy Redmond told one worker.

Unlike getting a flu or tetanus shot, you get poked numerous times.

"There's 15 small pricks. After you dip the needle in the vaccine all you want to do is scratch the skin in those 15 little areas and it's only a minute amount that you put on there and it's just that surface that gets inoculated," Redmond said.

Volunteering to get the shots includes learning about the vaccine, how it works and the risks involved.

"If you scratch the site and it's an actively growing virus and you scratch some other part of your body then you could possibly transplant that virus," Health Department Director Dr. Bob Travnicek said.

But those who volunteered say safety outweighs the risks even if it means feeling a little pain.

"Health care workers are the ones on the front line that would have to care for people and take care of them should a threat of smallpox be released and we do know in today's climate there is definitely that threat," Nurse Donna Sharp said.

"After they educated us and gave us the in service on it, I decided it was okay and I wanted to be a part of this. I want to be protected as well as my family," Nurse Sandy Watson said.

The next group to get the vaccine will be public safety workers. The health department says eventually they will be offered to the public. But people who are HIV positive or who have AIDS pregnant women, and those who have skin problems should not be vaccinated.