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Vaccinations, the Military, and the President

Bush's announcement of his administration's smallpox policy was, at first glance, handled exactly right.

The policy itself is a tough call. From the AP article:

Based on studies from the 1960s, experts estimate that 15 out of every 1 million people vaccinated for the first time will face life-threatening complications, and one or two will die. Reactions are less common for those being revaccinated.

Using these data, vaccinating the nation could lead to nearly 3,000 life-threatening complications and at least 170 deaths.

In short, military in high-risk areas are ordered to take the vaccine, but the administration is not recommending mass inoculations. So, how to communicate the risks versus benefits, and how to shore up support within a military whose rank-and-file troops have been suspicious of or refused anthrax vaccinations in the past?

By taking the vaccine himself, but not recommending it for his family and staff:

"As commander in chief, I do not believe I can ask others to accept this risk unless I am willing do to the same," Bush said. "Therefore, I will receive the vaccine along with our military."


"Given the current level of threat and the inherent health risks of the vaccine, we have decided not to initiate a broader vaccination program for all Americans at this time," Bush said. "Neither my family nor my staff will be receiving the vaccine because our health and national security experts do not believe a vaccination is necessary for the general public."

I don't care for W's politics. But I have to admit, his team generally knows how to communicate.


Yeah, I have to agree with you. I don't always agree with W, have often thought very little of him, but I do feel like this gesture on his part was nicely done.