Doctors Preparing to Transport SmallPox Vaccine

Doctors Preparing to Transport SmallPox Vaccine

Africa Stock Photos: Photographed sometime in the early 1970s, during the worldwide smallpox eradication campaign, this image depicted two public health officials and their transport vehicle preparing to journey to neighboring towns in order to administer smallpox vaccinations, and acquire epidemiologic data about the epidemic at that time. This image was captured somewhere in French West Africa.

The Smallpox Vaccine

The smallpox vaccine helps the body develop immunity to smallpox. The vaccine is made from a virus called vaccinia which is a “pox”-type virus related to smallpox. The smallpox vaccine contains the “live” vaccinia virus—not dead virus, like many other vaccines. For that reason, the vaccination site must be cared for carefully to prevent the virus from spreading. Also, the vaccine can have side effects. The vaccine does not contain the smallpox virus and cannot give you smallpox.

Currently, the United States has a big enough stockpile of smallpox vaccine to vaccinate everyone in the United States in the event of a smallpox emergency.

Length of Protection

Smallpox vaccination provides high level immunity for 3 to 5 years and decreasing immunity thereafter. If a person is vaccinated again later, immunity lasts even longer. Historically, the vaccine has been effective in preventing smallpox infection in 95% of those vaccinated. In addition, the vaccine was proven to prevent or substantially lessen infection when given within a few days of exposure. It is important to note, however, that at the time when the smallpox vaccine was used to eradicate the disease, testing was not as advanced or precise as it is today, so there may still be things to learn about the vaccine and its effectiveness and length of protection.

Keywords: Africa, Africans, Smallpox, vaccine