Health Department simplifies potassium iodide program

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(Host) The Vermont Health Department has launched a new effort to make potassium iodide pills available to residents near the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, the response has been strong.

(Zind) Potassium iodide can block the effects of radioactive iodine in the event of a nuclear accident. It doesn’t offer protection from the other harmful effects of radiation. When the potassium iodide was first made available to residents of the five towns nearest the Vernon plant more than a year and a half ago, response was tepid. In the first week only 30 people signed up to receive the pills.

But last week the Health Department sent a mailing to residents reminding them that the free pills were still available and in two days roughly five hundred people have requested them. Vermont Health Commissioner Doctor Paul Jarris says he’s glad to see the response.

(Jarris) “I think the interest is probably always there in the area. Maybe we’re over the shock of 9/11 and realize it’s now part of our lives to be prepared.”

(Zind) Jarris says the strong response is partly due to the fact the department has streamlined the process, cut a four-page form to a single page.

The potassium iodide tablets are available from the Brattleboro district office of the Health Department and from five area pharmacies. Protection from the pills is very specific. The Health Department advises that even those using the tablets should follow all emergency procedures in the event of a radiation accident.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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