Smallpox shots to start for health care workers

Ehrlich unveils first phase of inoculation program

February 21, 2003|By Tim Craig and David Nitkin | Tim Craig and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced yesterday that the state health department will begin inoculating 6,000 health care workers against smallpox this week in the first phase of a three-pronged strategy for protecting Maryland from a biological attack.

The second phase, which could begin this year, involves vaccinating the rest of the health care work force, including doctors and nurses, emergency medical personnel and health department officials.

The final phase is to begin next year, when the vaccine will be made available to the public on a voluntary basis.

Nelson J. Sabatini, the state health secretary, said he could not provide exact figures on the program's cost or when the first stage might be completed.

This week, workers will be vaccinated at regional clinics in Baltimore and in Allegany, Baltimore, Caroline, Charles, Montgomery and Wicomico counties. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is administering the program.

Ehrlich unveiled the program at a wide-ranging news conference during which he also said that the state remains under a state of emergency because of the weekend snowstorm. Nevertheless, he announced that he will travel to Garrett County this weekend on an economic development mission that is to include skiing with his family.

Also yesterday, Ehrlich said he, his wife, Kendel, and their son, Drew, would be sleeping in the governor's mansion for the first time.

Later in the afternoon, he invited reporters into Government House as a van pulled to the curb and movers carried exercise equipment and mattresses to the mansion's living quarters.

"Tonight will be the first night we're staying as a family," Ehrlich said, adding that Drew, 3, was particularly excited because he was getting his first "big-boy bed," a bunk bed.

"We hope to become part of the community," Kendel Ehrlich said, adding that the third-floor bathrooms were remodeled and rooms repainted before moving day. "It's the first toddler that's lived in the house for a while," she said.

The Ehrlichs said they intend to open the governor's mansion to visitors more frequently than in the past.

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