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Letter to Homeland Security Director outlines Missouri's security concerns

December 13, 2001
By: Amanda Joyce
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Calling smallpox "a major threat to our homeland security," Gov. Bob Holden has asked for federal response teams in Missouri to respond to any smallpox outbreak.

"Those teams should be prepared and protected just as CDC's teams are prepared and protected," Holden wrote in a letter to Tom Ridge, director of Homeland Security.

The governor's spokesman said the request reflected the governor's concern that local health care workers were not getting vaccinated like federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control.

The letter came after Holden, the governor's terrorism security adviser and the Health Department director met with Ridge in Washington in November to discuss their national and state security concerns.

After the meeting, Ridge asked Holden to send him a letter outlining the issues addressed in their meeting.

In the four page letter, Holden told Ridge that he wants increased communication and coordination between the federal and state governments, as well as sufficient funds for the state to fulfill its security responsibilities.

Jerry Nachtigal, the spokesman for Holden's office, said the letter identifies how Missouri can prepare for the worst.

"If we plan now and prepare for the worst, we'll be okay," Nachtigal said.

Nachtigal said the governor had no indication of a specific threat to Missouri. He also said they've been disappointed in the federal government's ability to communicate with local government.

In the recent meeting, Daniel was alarmed when he saw that the CDC was immunizing federal health workers, but not state or local ones, Nachtigal said.

"The governor is concerned...it sends a bad message when federal health workers are immunized while those at state and local level are not," Nachtigal said.

While Nachtigal does not believe statewide immunizations will be necessary, he did say that those state and local health workers who are "working on the front lines" should be immunized.