January 14, 2003
President Announces Smallpox Vaccination Program
On December 13, 2002, the President announced a plan to better protect the American people against the threat of smallpox attack by hostile groups or governments.
Smallpox is a serious, contagious, and sometimes fatal infectious disease. There is no specific treatment for smallpox disease, and the only prevention is vaccination. Smallpox outbreaks have occurred from time to time for thousands of years, but the disease is now eradicated after a successful worldwide vaccination program. The last case of smallpox in the United States was in 1949. The last naturally occurring case in the world was in Somalia in 1977.
Smallpox Vaccine Overview
The smallpox vaccine helps the body develop immunity to smallpox. Currently, the United States has a big enough stockpile of smallpox vaccine to vaccinate everyone who might need it in the event of an emergency. Production of new vaccine is underway.
People Who Should NOT Get the Smallpox Vaccine (Contraindications)
Because of health risks, the vaccine is not recommended for everyone. People who should not be vaccinated include pregnant women, people with immune systems problems (due to diseases like AIDS or treatments like chemotherapy), people with certain skin conditions, and people living with someone less than a year old.
Find out who should not be vaccinated
Live Virus Vaccines and Vaccinia
The vaccinia virus is the "live virus" used in the smallpox vaccine. It is a "pox"-type virus related to smallpox. When given to humans as a vaccine, it helps the body to develop immunity to smallpox. The smallpox vaccine does not contain the smallpox virus and it cannot cause smallpox.
Reactions After Smallpox Vaccination (Side Effects)
For most people, the smallpox vaccine is safe and effective. Most people experience normal, typically mild reactions to the vaccine, which indicate that it is beginning to work. Some people may experience reactions that may require medical attention.
Questions and Answers
How serious is the smallpox threat? How is smallpox spread? How long does a smallpox vaccination last? Is it possible for people to get smallpox from the vaccination? CDC answers common questions such as these.
Caring for the Smallpox Vaccination Site
Care must be taken after receiving the vaccination. A scab will form in the spot where the vaccination was given. This scab should be left alone so that the vaccinia virus in the vaccine doesn't spread to other parts of the body.
Someone You Are Close to Is Getting the Vaccine
If someone you have close, physical contact with (your spouse or partner or other adult family member) is getting the smallpox vaccine, there are some things you should know.
CDC's Smallpox Preparation and Response Activities
CDC is working with others to protect the American public in case smallpox is used as a bioterrorism weapon. These efforts include preparing health workers and developing plans for responding to outbreaks.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.