In comments supporting a proposed federal policy on smallpox vaccinations, the Service Employees International Union called on the Bush administration to issue a worker protection rule for tuberculosis because safety measures for TB would also protect workers and patients from a smallpox outbreak.

SEIU International President Andrew L. Stern urged the administration to release the completed final standard in a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The proposed TB rule, first published by OSHA in 1997, was meant to protect healthcare and other workers who might be exposed to the lung disease on the job.

In the May regulatory agenda, OSHA scheduled a decision on the tuberculosis exposure rule for October. OSHA reopened the rulemaking for four months earlier this year to accept public comment on two documents - a draft risk assessment and an Institute of Medicine report.

SEIU also asserts that healthcare workers would be better protected from a terrorism attack using smallpox if the TB rule were in place "because smallpox is airborne also."