Tag: bioterrorism

Should I Be Worried That My Kids Didn’t Get the Smallpox Vaccine?

Routine vaccination with smallpox vaccines ended in the US in 1972, a short time before smallpox was declared eradicated (1980).

Do you have a smallpox vaccine scar?
Do you have a smallpox vaccine scar?

It was also before the last case of wild smallpox was found (1977).

Why?

Because smallpox had been declared eliminated in North America long before (1952), following the last natural outbreak of smallpox in the United States (1949).

Should I Be Worried That My Kids Didn’t Get the Smallpox Vaccine?

Although smallpox has been eradicated, some folks still worry about it.

“There are now only two locations where variola virus is officially stored and handled under WHO supervision: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, and the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology (VECTOR Institute) in Koltsovo, Russia.”

CDC on History of Smallpox

Of course, the concern now is not naturally occurring smallpox, but instead bioterrorism.

Could the smallpox virus be made into a weapon to be used in a bioterrorist attack?

We hope not, but if it was, none of us would be immune, not even the folks who were vaccinated long ago. The smallpox vaccine doesn’t provide life-long immunity.

So should you be worried?

“Some people have been vaccinated through the military or because they were part of Smallpox Response Teams that were formed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”

CDC on Why is Smallpox a Concern?

Almost certainly not.

Plans are in place if there ever was a smallpox attack and if necessary, there is actually enough smallpox vaccine stockpiled to vaccinate everyone in the United States!

More on Smallpox Worries

Smallpox Vaccine

Smallpox was officially declared to have been eradicated in 1980.

Not eliminated. Not eradicated in the United States. It was eradicated.

Smallpox was officially declared to have been eradicated worldwide in 1980.
Smallpox was officially declared to have been eradicated worldwide in 1980.

When was the last case of smallpox?

The last wild case occurred in 1977, in Somalia. Another case occurred in 1978, but that followed a lab accident in Birmingham, England.

We still have stocks of the smallpox virus in at least two secure laboratories and with the risk that smallpox can be used as a biological weapon, we still have a smallpox vaccine.

Smallpox Vaccine

It isn’t for just anyone though.

The live, attenuated smallpox vaccine made vaccinia virus, ACAM2000, is given as a single dose to those who are at high risk for getting smallpox.

The latest version of the smallpox vaccine was licensed in 2007 and replaced Dryvax, the previous vaccine.

The routine civilian production and distribution of a smallpox vaccine ended in 1983. We had already stopped routinely vaccinating people long before that though. Routine smallpox vaccination, which was typically given when children were about 12 months old, ended in 1972 in the United States.

More on the Smallpox Vaccine

Anthrax Vaccine

Although anthrax is a regular bacterial infection, you can get it from exposure to infected animals, these days people are more concerned about terrorism and the use of weaponized anthrax.

That’s where the anthrax vaccine comes in.

Biothrax, an anthrax vaccine that was first approved in 1970, can be given to those who are at high risk for exposure to anthrax in a series of five doses.

More on the Anthrax Vaccine