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Immunize Everyone Now

By BURTON SOKOLOFF Pediatrician, Los Angeles

October 13 2001

The only place to store immunizations is within our own bodies. It's our only sure protection. I believe part of the answer to the threat of germ warfare is to immunize everyone in the country against smallpox right now. In my private practice, I routinely gave smallpox immunizations until the 1970s, when our country was deemed to be free of the disease. The vaccine is no longer available; I couldn't get my hands on it if I wanted to.

I'd be happier knowing that everyone in our country is protected from this disease, rather than having a fraction of the needed doses secured in storage areas across the U.S. My fear is that if we were attacked, by the time the immunizations went from the supply source to the individual, the illness would spread.

Anthrax is a bit different because we don't know enough about the potential risk of immunization for it, so I'm less convinced that we should all be immunized against anthrax at this time. But I'd like to have more vaccines available and agree with those who believe its manufacture should be accelerated

I have heard of people stockpiling oral antibiotics, but only very high doses of intravenous antibiotics are effective in treating most of these diseases. Individuals shouldn't try to self-medicate.

As for purchasing gas masks, they cannot protect against all bacterial and viral illnesses.

The most important thing is not to panic. We should, however, question our public health authorities about the availability of immunizations, tell them that we want more protection and ask if they are doing all that they can to provide for our safety. It is also very important that each of us gets up to date with other immunizations, such as tetanus/diphtheria and hepatitis A and B.

Recently, I got my flu shot. If anything happens and our resistance goes down, flu could cause an epidemic itself. Start helping yourself by calling your doctor.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 13, 2001

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