Kansas City, Mo. — Thousands of health care workers are scheduled to be inoculated against smallpox this week in Kansas and Missouri, but they represent only a fraction of the doses available in the two states.
The Kansas City Health Department, one of five designated by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to give the vaccine, expects to inoculate about 110 people this week.
Statewide, about 2,400 people in Missouri have volunteered for the vaccinations, but that's less than half of the 5,000 doses available. In Kansas -- which has 3,000 doses available -- only 750 have signed up to get the shots.
The vaccinations are part of a nationwide effort by the federal government to immunize as many as half a million health care workers against smallpox.
Those workers would serve in the front lines of a medical response if there were a terror attack using the deadly virus.
A team from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment was scheduled to start the vaccinations Tuesday and today in Topeka. Within the next few weeks, KDHE will conduct vaccination clinics in six other cities, including one Friday in Kansas City, Kan.
The government plan also calls for vaccinating up to 10 million police, fire and emergency workers later in the year.
The slow start for the vaccination effort is being attributed to concerns by potential participants about side effects.
In Kansas, 26 of the 46 hospitals the state health department has invited to participate have agreed to do so. Of the 120 acute-care hospitals in Missouri, 81 have agreed to take part.