January 14, 2003
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.
Read more about the Vaccination Program
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.
Read more of the "Smallpox 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.
Read more of the "Vaccine Overview"
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
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.
Read more about live virus vaccines and vaccinia
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.
Find out about side effects of smallpox vaccination
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.
Learn answers to frequently asked questions
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.
Find out more about caring for the vaccination site
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.
Find out what to do if a close contact is getting vaccinated
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.
Find out what CDC is doing about smallpox