As the result of a successful worldwide effort to eradicate smallpox, the vaccine was removed from the commercial market in 1983. Routine vaccinations were stopped in the United States in 1972 because many people experienced side effects and there was almost no risk of getting smallpox. The federal government has announced plans to accelerate smallpox vaccine production. The Centers for Disease Control would only recommend vaccination of the general public if there were clear evidence that the disease had resurfaced and people were at risk.
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and ASTHO’s Affiliated Organizations believe that it is important for the public to know the following facts:
- Smallpox does not occur in nature. People cannot get smallpox by traveling to a foreign country, nor can they get it from people visiting this country.
- Other than through a criminal act or working in a research laboratory, the risk of exposure to smallpox is zero. While the chance of a criminal act occurring is very low, federal, state, and local governments are seriously working to ensure that if such an act occurs the United States is prepared to deal with it quickly and effectively.
- In the unlikely event of criminal exposure, vaccine would be made available to anyone who was exposed to the disease. Vaccine given within 3 – 4 days after exposure can prevent the disease or lessen symptoms. The vaccine does not contain smallpox virus.
For additional information see the following web site: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/