CDC: Smallpox systems incomplete

The system used to report and track smallpox vaccines is incomplete and not fully electronic, Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told lawmakers today.

"There is more work to be done on that," Gerberding said, testifying at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Concerns about compensation and liability, as well as recipients having adverse reactions to the vaccine, have slowed the smallpox program, she said. However, a system used to monitor adverse reactions has proven successful.

"We have the best monitoring system we've had for any vaccine," Gerberding said.

The agency has made strides in an effort to better prepare the public health community for a bioterrorism attack, she said. Expanded health alert networks and laboratory response networks are aiding communications in the public health community.

CDC's Health Alert Network expands Internet connectivity of state and local health departments. About 70 percent of the population in all states is connected, and in more than half the states this network covers the entire population, Gerberding said.

The Laboratory Response Network links 117 labs across the country so they can work together to combat bioterrorism and natural outbreaks of diseases. Fifty of those labs can detect and analyze Biosafety Level (BSL)-3 highly pathogenic organisms, which is triple the number of labs able to do so in 1999.

Much work remains, Gerberding said. CDC is "starting with a public health system that's been long neglected," she told lawmakers at today's hearing.

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