Bush received the smallpox inoculation at the White House at 12:15 p.m. ET.
Bush gets smallpox vaccine
From Suzanne Malveaux
Saturday, December 21, 2002 Posted: 10:13 PM EST (0313 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As promised, President Bush received a vaccination against smallpox Saturday joining about 500,000 troops who were ordered to receive the inoculation.
The White House said Bush showed no immediate side effects from the vaccine, which can sicken and sometimes kill recipients.
"The president feels fine," White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo said in a statement.
The vaccination was administered by a senior immunization technician from Walter Reed Army Medical Center under the supervision of the White House doctor and its medical unit staff, according to the statement.
A senior administration official said Bush will be monitored, "but the physician does not expect any complications."
Bush announced December 13 that members of the military and some medical personnel would be vaccinated against smallpox as protection against a possible terrorist attack.
"The president has made it clear that he was obtaining the smallpox vaccine in his position as commander-in-chief," Mamo said.
Bush received the vaccine in his left arm at 12:15 p.m. ET at the White House, before departing for Camp David for the holidays, the statement said.
In the first phase of his plan, the vaccine is being administered to about 500,000 troops deployed in high-risk parts of the world. It will also be made available on a voluntary basis to health-care workers and other first-responder emergency workers.
When he announced the inoculation plan, the president said it was a security precaution and that he had no information suggesting a smallpox attack was imminent.
"It is prudent to prepare for the possibility that terrorists who would kill, who kill indiscriminately, would use diseases as a weapon," Bush said. "Men and women who could be on the front lines of a biological attack must be protected."
The World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated in 1979, and Bush said that since then authorities have not detected a single natural case of the disease in the world.
The vaccine, which has not been administered widely in the United States since the 1970s, typically kills one to two people of every million people who receive it, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
But those statistics, which are based on studies carried out in 1968, may not be accurate. Since then, the number of people with suppressed immune systems -- people with HIV, cancer or transplants -- has soared.
Further clouding the projections is the fact that advances in medical treatment since those statistics were compiled may reduce the complication rates.
Bush decided to begin inoculating military personnel and offering the vaccination to health-care workers after months of consultations between the administration and health officials around the world. Some health experts called it one of the toughest medical decisions a president has had to make.