Vermont Temporarily Delays Smallpox Vaccinations

For Immediate Release
March 31, 2003
News media contact:
Nancy Erickson
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON -- On March 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took the precautionary step of adding a temporary medical deferral to the smallpox vaccination program for people who have been diagnosed with heart disease.

Following the alert from CDC, Vermont health officials decided to temporarily postpone smallpox vaccination clinics scheduled for March 28 through April 6, while awaiting more definitive guidance from CDC. CDC is expected to provide additional recommendations for those who are volunteering for vaccination, as well as updated vaccination information and screening forms, this week.

“Our first concern is for the health and safety of those who volunteer for smallpox vaccination,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Paul Jarris.

“It just makes sense that we temporarily delay vaccinations here in Vermont while federal health authorities investigate whether the heart problems reported nationally were caused by the vaccine, or if some or all of these events are coincidental.”

CDC is investigating whether there is any association between smallpox vaccination and reports of heart problems, including three deaths, in civilians who have been vaccinated. None of these cases has occurred in Vermont.

To date, 38 Vermonters have been vaccinated, with no serious reactions reported. More than 25,000 civilians have been vaccinated across the country as part of the National Smallpox Vaccination Program.

Vermont’s program incorporates, and will continue to incorporate, extensive safeguards to ensure that all those volunteering to be vaccinated are thoroughly informed and screened to make sure they are appropriate candidates for vaccination. Everyone who has been vaccinated recently is being alerted to the concern about heart disease.

For more information about smallpox and the smallpox vaccine, see the CDC website: www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/index.asp.