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Consider This Before Getting the Smallpox Vaccine


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Whether or not to get the smallpox vaccine has become an emotionally charged issue and ultimately a personal decision each of us may one day have to make. It's a serious decision because the smallpox vaccine is undoubtedly the most dangerous of all vaccines. As such, we should have all the facts, but most of the general public has been grossly misinformed about smallpox and the vaccine.

The first thing to consider is there has been no threat of an attack involving smallpox, nor has there been any evidence that any terrorist groups or governments have supplies of the smallpox virus or any means to spread it.

The public also hasn't been told that the dangers of general inoculation far outweigh the benefits. It's been said that only one or two people for every million inoculated might die from the vaccine. The truth is, although no one knows exactly how many people would die from the vaccine, it would be much more than one or two per million. Let's take a look at the government's list of those who should not be vaccinated because of the risk of serious side effects.

The government states that the following individuals or anyone who lives with these individuals should not be vaccinated:

  • Anyone who has or has ever had, even as a child, eczema or atopic dermatitis;

  • Anyone with a skin condition such as a burn, chickenpox, shingles, impetigo, herpes, acne, or psoriasis;

  • Anyone with a weakened immune system such as those with cancer or HIV or any other illness that can weaken the immune system;

  • Anyone on medications such as steroids that are used to treat illnesses that can weaken the immune system;

  • Anyone who is breast-feeding, pregnant, or planning to become pregnant within a month;

  • Anyone younger than 12 months old (the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says no one under the age of 18 should receive a non-emergency immunization of smallpox);

  • Anyone who currently is experiencing a moderate or short-term illness; and

  • Anyone who is allergic to the vaccine or any of its ingredients.

These restrictions probably rule out 50% of all people, especially when you consider the number of people who live with individuals with any of these problems. A recent USA Today article stated that 60 million Americans had immune system-related health problems. Even if you're healthy but newly vaccinated, you pose a serious risk to anyone who falls into the above categories.  Do you believe that the screening process before a mass inoculation program would be so precise that only those with perfect health and a lifelong history of perfect health would be vaccinated? 

Controlled Isolation Is the Real Answer

Dr. Thomas Mack, a former smallpox officer with the Centers for Disease Control and now a professor at the University of Southern California, is one of the country's leading experts on smallpox. He has stated that the actual number of deaths from smallpox would have more to do with how smallpox patients were sheltered and isolated than who was vaccinated.

Smallpox is not as contagious as the cold or flu. It is transmitted by prolonged face-to-face contact or contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated objects. History has shown that infections mostly involved family members and health workers who had direct, repeated contact with an infected individual. This is why it would be important to isolate infected individuals in dedicated emergency shelters for the period of time they are contagious. Vaccinating and isolating the contacts of these infected individuals would then make sense.

The worst thing that could happen would be to start bringing infected individuals into the hospitals. Exposing existing hospital patients to smallpox would cause death rates to soar.

There is no treatment for smallpox. Based on past observations (the last case of smallpox in the U.S. was in 1949, and the last naturally occurring case in the world was in Somalia in 1977) the fatality rate of those infected with the disease was 30%. That rate would obviously be lower in healthy, well-nourished individuals. Contrary to what is being disseminated, smallpox was not eradicated from the world through mass vaccinations. Less than 10% of the population worldwide ever received the vaccination. Improvements in housing, sanitation, water supplies, and nutrition are what helped bring about the demise of smallpox.

Getting the vaccine four to seven days after exposure to the disease, however, can protect one from becoming ill, or at least reduce its severity. This being the case, we should be concentrating our efforts on being able to isolate individuals exposed to the virus and our ability to vaccinate only them and not the public at large.

The vaccine also is only effective for about 3 to 5 years. After that, its effect begins to wane and it must be given again. Repeating the procedure over and over again will obviously increase the number of serious side effects and deaths.

Here is a chart from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services giving a breakdown of the stages of smallpox that describes both the symptoms and the times when the disease is contagious. Hopefully you never have to refer to it, but here it is just in case the need arises.


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