Smallpox Questions: Read This Before You Get Vaccinated

The Bush administration, in an astonishing change of policy, is preparing to abandon its previous resistance to widespread "pre-attack" vaccinations and offer the smallpox vaccine to all Americans.

The dramatic shift may be the result of growing public demand for the vaccine, as echoed in newspaper editorials around the nation. Or it may be that the administration knows something that we don't about the terrorists' access to the smallpox virus and their intention to use it as a weapon. (Inevitably there will be some cynics who argue that making the vaccine available will rachet up national anxiety levels and bolster calls for pre-emptive action.)

Whatever the reason, millions of Americans will venture into what is basically a large, uncontrolled experiment. Certainly we should have the right to make our own decisions on how to protect our health. But as we move toward the prospect of mass vaccination, we face a number of unanswered questions: ï