Smallpox is an illness caused by the variola virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, vomiting, and a rash that starts out as flat red spots and then turns into blisters. Smallpox can be spread from person to person, usually once a fever and rash have developed.
The smallpox vaccine protects against infection by helping a person’s body develop immunity to the smallpox virus. It is made from a live virus that’s very similar to the smallpox virus. The vaccine doesn’t cause smallpox. However, it can cause severe reactions in the following:
No, the smallpox vaccine is not available to the public. Routine smallpox vaccination in the United States ended in 1972. Once smallpox had been wiped out worldwide, the public didn’t need to be protected from getting the disease anymore. Now the smallpox virus only exists in samples in research laboratories.
The smallpox vaccine is still used to protect certain people (for example, people who work with the smallpox virus in research laboratories). The United States also has a supply of smallpox vaccine available in case of an outbreak of smallpox, which is unlikely.
Probably not. Studies show that the vaccine is most effective for 3 to 5 years after vaccination.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff