March 26, 2003
CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE
- CDC issues press release: Temporary Deferral
Recommended for Heart Patients Volunteering for Smallpox Vaccination
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March 26, 2003
CDC ISSUES PRESS RELEASE: TEMPORARY DEFERRAL RECOMMENDED FOR HEART PATIENTS
VOLUNTEERING FOR SMALLPOX VACCINATION
CDC issued the following press release on March 25.
For Immediate Release March 25, 2003
CDC Media Relations
Temporary Deferral Recommended for Heart Patients Volunteering for Smallpox
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today took the precautionary
step of adding a temporary medical deferral to the smallpox vaccination
program for persons who have been diagnosed with heart disease. CDC is
investigating whether there is any association between smallpox vaccination
and reports of heart problems in seven health care workers who have been
CDC added the temporary measure to the existing list of deferral criteria
based on information from its real-time monitoring system, which showed a
small number of heart-related incidents among health care workers following
smallpox vaccination. It is not clear whether this number is greater than
would be expected normally in this population, CDC scientists said.
"We promised to closely monitor this program and to put safety first, so we
are exercising exceptional caution," said Julie Gerberding, M.D., CDC
director. "If our investigation shows this precautionary measure
should become permanent or the need for other changes or enhancements in the
civilian smallpox vaccination program, we will take immediate action."
"We continue to believe that it is important and necessary to vaccinate
health care workers to prepare our nation in the event we have to respond to
a smallpox outbreak," Dr. Gerberding said.
CDC is recommending that persons with known cardiac disease – such as
cardiomyopathy, previous heart attack, history of angina, or other evidence
of coronary artery disease – be temporarily deferred from receiving smallpox
vaccination. CDC will provide states with simple questions about heart
problems to use in screening people volunteering for smallpox vaccination.
In pursuing its promise of safety, last week CDC asked the Advisory
Committee on Immunization Practices' (ACIP) Smallpox Vaccine Safety Review
Board to examine reports of heart-related adverse events occurring in
connection with the smallpox vaccination program. CDC is also beginning
research projects aimed at identifying and understanding any associations
that may exist between smallpox vaccine and heart-related problems.
"A major part of our monitoring program involves regularly sharing
information about adverse events with experts such as those on the ACIP.
They can help assess whether the smallpox vaccine is, indeed,
associated with the medical conditions described in the adverse event
reports," said Walter Orenstein, M.D., director of CDC's National
CDC has received several reports of heart-related problems among the 25,645
people who have been vaccinated in the civilian program. The seven cases
prompting today's precautionary action include three cases of
myocardial infarction (heart attack), one of which resulted in death; two
cases of angina (chest pain); and two cases of myopericarditis (inflammation
of the heart muscle or sac surrounding the heart). In each case the
individual's medical history, including risk factors for heart disease, is
Cases of heart inflammation following smallpox vaccination were reported in
the 1960s and 1970s. However, the information from these reports does not
provide any information about the types of people who may be at higher
risk for heart-related problems following smallpox vaccination.
To obtain the press release from CDC's website, go to:
To obtain the CDC telebriefing transcript update on the smallpox vaccination
program, dated March 25, go to:
For more information on smallpox, go to CDC's website at: