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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Does Your Child Need the Smallpox Vaccine?

Jennifer M asks the question, "Does your child need the smallpox vaccine?" Originally published March 2002 .

Since the events of September 11, 2001, the entire world has had to face new challenges and threats. One of these threats, biological terrorism, has become increasingly more realistic, especially in light of the domestic anthrax terrorist attacks in the USA. Smallpox, considered as eradicated world-wide by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1980, is another such biological weapon that might be utilized. The only two known holders of smallpox virus stock are the U.S.A. and Russia. It is feared that terrorists may have secreted away some of the smallpox virus from the Russian stocks for use as a biological weapon. This scenario is quite unlikely, however, because terrorists would need high-tech scientific facilities and knowledge to develop and adapt the virus for use as a weapon. Nevertheless, the possibility remains that the world may one day be exposed to the smallpox virus again.

Many of you, like me, were probably born in the USA prior to the early 1970s and, therefore, have been vaccinated against smallpox (a scar on the upper arm or back will confirm suspiscions). Anyone born after this time period in the U.S.A. has not been immunized; and, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA, SHOULD NOT be immunized in a non-emergency situation or as a preventive measure against a hypothetical biological terrorist smallpox attack. Some basic facts about the smallpox vaccine make the reasons for this quite clear:


  • The CDC admits that the old live vaccinia virus for smallpox was never tested for safety or efficacy in controlled trials. They cannot even say how long a vaccinated person carries immunity (most likely up to 5 years, possibly up to 10 years, perhaps up to 50 years). This could mean that no one in the U.S.A. is immune to smallpox anymore.

  • The CDC also admits that the side effects of the smallpox vaccination can be very severe and even cause death. The vaccinia virus vaccine used to prevent smallpox is most likely the most highly reactive vaccine that has ever been used in humans according to the WHO, causing a serious reaction rate of 1 in 4,000 persons.

  • The CDC has made a list of contraindications, i.e. persons who should not receive the smallpox vaccination, in a non-emergency situation: persons with eczema or other skin conditions, persons infected with HIV, persons with immunosuppression (leukemia, lymphoma, etc.), infants and children under age 18, pregnant woman, and people with allergies to substances used in Dryvax, the only stockplied vaccine against smallpox in the U.S.A. and the world.

Due to the dangers of the old live vaccinia virus against smallpox, scientists are working on developing a more stable and more safe smallpox vaccine, especially to protect those who would need it most, but who should not receive it due to the dangers (see above list of contraindications). This in itself is also filled with controversy. The old vaccine was created using materials from cows, but new research also includes experimentation with stem cells taken from fetuses.

Hopefully, the government, the scientists and the major drug companies will be able to come to an agreement and produce a new and improved vaccine for smallpox before the world really needs it!

Information taken from:

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