A new guidance is available that advises local health departments on the United States’ vaccine response strategy in the case of a smallpox outbreak. “Clinical Guidance for Smallpox Vaccine Use in a Postevent Vaccination Program” is a collaboration between NACCHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics to provide recommendations for persons at risk of smallpox infection after an intentional or accidental release of the virus.
The guidance is the result of a three-day workshop in 2013 that brought together more than 80 subject matter experts representing federal and public health agencies, as well as medical associations and institutions. A multi-agency steering committee comprised of representatives from CDC, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response oversaw the guidance development process.
Naturally occurring smallpox was officially eradicated in 1980, the result of an intensive public health vaccination campaign that began in the 1960s. Vaccination of the U.S. general public ceased in 1971 as a result of that campaign. However, the threat of smallpox remains due to concerns that variola virus might exist outside of the samples kept in Russian and American facilities and that it could be used as an agent of bioterrorism. Because of this, the United States has a stockpile of smallpox vaccinations for use in the case of a public health emergency.
The guidance outlines recommendations for the clinical use of the three smallpox vaccines in the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile. Surveillance and containment activities, including vaccination, will be the primary response strategy.