April 14, 2003
Diane Witiak
(202) 639-6419

Determined Democrats Hammer Out Better Compensation Package For Smallpox Vaccination Program

(Washington, D.C.)—In an agreement reached between Congressional Democrats and the White House, health care workers and other first responders who suffer side effects from the smallpox vaccine will not have to suffer financially. Volunteers for the smallpox vaccine will now be compensated if they develop complications from the vaccine.

“This is the right thing to do for these frontline volunteers—they should not have to worry about their own health or their family’s health as they make the important decision to be inoculated,” stated AFGE National President Bobby L. Harnage, Sr.

While federal employees who develop adverse effects as a result of volunteering for the vaccine would be covered by the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), AFGE was concerned about coverage for members’ families and co-workers should they be affected. This agreement covers secondary infection and would provide compensation to co-workers and family members.

The legislation, waiting at the White House for signature, would include an educational program for potential participants to learn about the possible side effects and the compensation options available, voluntary screening to rule out conditions that may put volunteers at risk if inoculated, and medical follow-up after the vaccine.

“AFGE remains concerned that there is currently no mandatory funding for this compensation package,” Harnage added. “Health care workers and their families should not have to go to Congress every year to beg for funding for this program.”

AFGE worked with the AFL-CIO and other health care worker unions to push for better protection for volunteers and their families.

“We especially thank Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Representatives John Dingell (D-Mich.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.), for their commitment to working out this agreement with the White House, which initially resisted the need for a compensation program,” Harnage concluded.

AFGE is the largest union for government employees, representing 600,000 federal workers in the United States and overseas, as well as employees of the District of Columbia. To learn more about AFGE, log on to

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