Frist to Receive Smallpox Vaccine for Potential Role as ‘First Responder’

Posted March 13, 2003 at 4:26pm

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) will receive a vaccination for smallpox Friday, making him the first Congressional leader to be immunized against the deadly disease, which some security experts fear could be used as a weapon by terrorists.

A surgeon by training, Frist decided to take the shot to protect himself against the pathogen should he be required to act as a first responder in the event of a terrorist attack.

“He is doing this as a doctor who is joining the ranks of other D.C.-area front line responders,” said Bob Stevenson, Frist’s spokesman.

Over the past few weeks, the Majority Leader had been mulling whether to receive the shot. In addition to being immunized, Frist will receive training to respond to a smallpox outbreak should it be used as part of a terrorist attack.

“He feels that it is important that all health professionals be trained in the appropriate procedures in administering of the smallpox vaccine,” Stevenson said.

Frist has made headlines in the past for springing into action during several dramatic events, including the July 1998 shooting rampage in the Capitol that resulted in the deaths of two Capitol Police officers. Most recently, Frist aided crash victims when a SUV overturned on a Florida highway in January.

Already, Congress’ medical team has been immunized and next week Capitol Police officials will submit a list of officers who will receive the shot.

So far, no other Congressional leaders have opted for the shot, despite the fact that Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate President Pro Tem Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) are second and third in line of succession to the president behind Vice President Cheney.