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small pox vaccine

Jan 6, 2003

I read your response about the small pox vacine and it triggered another question for me. I work for a large home care organization, and some of our staff may start toreceive the vacine. Is there any danger in exposing our HIV+ patients to RN's and MSW's soon after they have been vacinated. If so what is the waiting period?

Response from Dr. Wohl


This is an important point. Persons who are vaccinated against smallpox can shed the cowpox virus used to make the vaccine for about 3 weeks. Accidental spread to others can occur. For most people this exposure will be harmless and may even offer some protection against smallpox. However, persons who have never been vaccinated against smallpox as kids and/or who are immunocompromised may be more likely to develop symptomatic coxpox infection. Just to be clear here, the smallpox vaccine does not contain smallpox and can not give someone smallpox. The vaccine contains Vaccinia (called cowpox) a virus which is not anywhere near as nasty as smallpox (Variola) but which can make some people very ill and even cause death.

Whether, inoculated health care workers will have to be paid to stay home so as not to infect vulnerable persons where they work is a subject of much discussion.

A helpful article on this issue was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on October 16, 2002. See


Also, check out the CDC website at DW

OT: about a previous answer
Combivir + ddl

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