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Acad Emerg Med. 2003 Jun;10(6):599-605.

Emergency physicians' perspectives on smallpox vaccination.

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Bellevue Hospital/NYU Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.



To evaluate emergency physician (EP) attitudes toward smallpox vaccination, the treatment of patients with suspected smallpox, and the threat of a bioterrorist attack.


This was a prospective study utilizing a standardized survey instrument that was distributed on November 16, 2002, and collected by February 1, 2003. EPs from a sample of 50 accredited emergency medicine programs were surveyed regarding their perspectives on smallpox vaccination.


A total of 989 surveys were collected from 42 emergency medicine programs. Of the respondents, 43.4% would currently volunteer for smallpox vaccination. EPs previously vaccinated against smallpox were 1.46 times more likely to volunteer for vaccination (95% CI = 1.14 to 1.93). EPs who believed they were at risk for complications were less than half as likely to volunteer for vaccination. EPs who perceived a significant risk of a bioterrorist attack were 2.7 times more likely to volunteer for the vaccine compared with those who thought the risk was minimal (95% CI = 2.06 to 3.47). Of the respondents, 34.4% believed the risks of the vaccination outweighed the benefits, 33% did not, and 32.6% were unsure.


Currently, fewer than half of EPs surveyed would volunteer for smallpox vaccination. Factors associated with a willingness to be vaccinated include previous smallpox vaccination and the perceived threat of a bioterrorist attack. The variation in EP attitudes toward smallpox vaccination may be due to uncertain risk-to-benefit ratio. The opinions and actions of EPs may be influential on current and future government policy and public opinion.

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