No smallpox shot for those with bad hearts
March 30, 2003
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Department of Defense will adhere to a recent recommendation by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to suspend giving smallpox vaccinations to people with a history of heart disease, a Pentagon spokesman said.
However, the practice will have little operational impact on servicemembers because they generally are healthy, and DOD health regulations prevent them from entering the services to begin with, James Turner said.
The CDC issued the recommendation after two health care providers in the United States suffered fatal heart attacks after being immunized. The smallpox vaccine’s link to heart disease is being investigated.
DOD Instruction 6130.4 provides a list of medical conditions that are cause for rejection for appointment, enlistment or induction into the services.
Smallpox vaccinations for military personnel became mandatory Dec. 13. Since then, roughly 8,000 military medical personnel and more than 100,000 troops have been vaccinated.
Side effects range from flulike symptoms to, in rare cases, death.
In the past, between 14 and 52 people out of every 1 million vaccinated for the first time experienced potentially life-threatening reactions, which included serious skin reactions and encephalitis, or swelling of the brain. Based on past experience, one or two people in 1 million who receive smallpox vaccine could die, according to the DOD Web site.
According to the site, a handful of vaccinated servicemembers have come down with serious side effects, though not life-threatening. Identifiable information about any affected is not being released.
In February, a 38-year-old soldier was admitted to a U.S. civilian hospital and diagnosed with encephalitis. He became ill nine days after receiving the vaccine. He recovered completely and has since been deployed with his unit.
A 23-year-old soldier was admitted Jan. 26 in an overseas military hospital and diagnosed with encephalitis. He had been vaccinated eight days before becoming ill. He recovered and returned to duty.
Two Air Force personnel, four Marine Corps personnel, and a soldier suffered from generalized vaccinia, a rash that sometimes is accompanied by several pus-filled blisters. Vaccinia can occur because the vaccine contains a “living” virus allowing the body to build immunity to it. All have returned to duty.
A “successful” vaccination is determined when a red blister appears on the arm at the site of the vaccination injections and then turns white six to eight days after vaccination. It then turns into a scab and fall off.
The DOD Web site is: www.smallpox.army.mil