President Bush is putting finishing touches on a plan to offer all Americans smallpox vaccine to guard against a bioterrorism attack. The plan is expected to be announced later this week.
In a lengthy interview recorded early Wednesday with ABC television, President Bush talked about the broad outlines of his smallpox vaccine plan.
In excerpts broadcast Wednesday night he said the program would be voluntary, and all Americans will be able to chose whether or not take the vaccine.
There are strong indications the first people to get vaccinated will be members of the armed forces, then emergency medical teams.
Vaccinating the public at large will take some time, as providers wait for new regulated batches of vaccine to become available. Expectations are the process could last until 2004.
The president has been weighing the need for a national smallpox vaccination program for some months, with aides stressing there is concern about possible side effects from the vaccine.
Smallpox was eradicated worldwide two decades ago, but there are fears the disease could return through biological weapons. Routine vaccinations against smallpox in the United States ended in 1972.