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Monday, September 05, 2005

County may stockpile vaccines

By Brad Rollins
San Marcos Daily

County leaders this week will consider appropriating $50,000 to stockpile vaccines and declaring a state of emergency in anticipation of a stream of refugees expected to pass through here en route to shelters in Austin and Dallas.

Health Services Director Nick Icossipentarhos said he had already spent $12,000 to buy tetanus and hepatitis inoculations for as many as 300 emergency and medical workers in the county including police, fire and emergency medical service personnel.

The shots will be made available to public employees likely to come in contact with residents fleeing the stricken Gulf Coast which authorities fear could become a soggy, sweltering incubator for disease.

As many as 5,000 refugees were expected to arrive in Austin this weekend and the exodus could continue for weeks with Interstate 35 likely to be a major route for relocating families.

"Prevention is a lot less expensive than treatment and we're in a preventative type mode," Icossipentarhos said. "We'd rather have people who will be in the front lines of whatever they get called to do fully prepared to complete their assignment than wish we had planned better for whatever may arise."

If it is approved, the additional money will be set aside for other medical needs that may arise. For instance, he said, displaced schoolchildren enrolling here will need standard vaccinations.

"We're going to have bus loads of people coming through here and we aim to protect our population against whatever comes up," Icossipentarhos said. "If something happens - God forbid - we'll be prepared."

Brad E. Bailey, special assistant to County Judge Jim Powers, said the vaccines are a necessary expense as the county prepares both for its small share of Katrina's aftermath and learns from the situation.

The county is also likely to spend several thousand on a satellite phone system and may decide to appropriate more money for indigent health care to treat weary hurricane victims, he said.

"We'd rather err on the side of caution than wake up one morning and find out we didn't do everything we could," Bailey said.

Hays Fire Marshal Mark Chambers, who is also the county's emergency management coordinator, said the county had been designated as a pass-through county but refugees could be directed here if shelters in larger cities fill up.

Chambers leads a team of a dozen first responders, including swift water rescue teams, cadaver dogs and recovery divers, waiting for instructions to report to Federal Emergency Management Administration headquarters in Baton Rouge.

"We expect to be called," he said. "We don't know when we'll get the call, but we're waiting on it."


Posted by Becca

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