NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Risks of Smallpox Vaccine

October 21, 2002

The smallpox vaccine itself is dangerous. That is the message public health officials want to get out to the American people.

  • Vaccine causes life-threatening reactions in 15 of every million people vaccinated -- even killing one or two of them.
  • Up to 50 million Americans -- including babies, pregnant women, people with common skin rash eczema, as well as those with weakened immune systems -- may be vulnerable to the vaccine's risks.
  • It was believed that smallpox had been eradicated worldwide as of 1980 -- but it could be reintroduced via a bioterror attack.
  • The White House is considering plans to inoculate about 500,000 hospital workers, followed by firefighters, police and paramedics who would be offered the vaccine -- bringing the total to about 10.5 million people.

The vaccine would be made available to the general public sometime in 2004, and that step would be accompanied by a public education campaign. Federal officials working on the overall plan are also considering whether to setup a fund to compensate victims injured by the vaccine.

Source: Marilyn Chase and Greg Hitt, "Ugly Side Effects of Smallpox Vaccine," Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2002

For text (WSJ subscribers)


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