CDC: Heart problems not linked to smallpox vaccine

The nation’s efforts to vaccinate ED staff and other frontline health care providers against smallpox hit a serious bump when some people developed serious heart problems after the vaccination, but the concerns were unwarranted, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

Three deaths and 13 other serious heart problems occurred following vaccination with the New York City Board of Health (NYCBOH) strain of the smallpox virus, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Oct. 3, 2003.

When those heart problems were first revealed, the CDC recommended that individuals with potential heart disease forego smallpox vaccination.

There was no clear evidence that the heart problems were associated with the vaccine, however, and the latest information from the CDC indicates there is no connection.

To determine if the vaccine caused heart problems, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene studied a 1947 vaccination campaign during which more than 6 million residents were vaccinated with the same NYCBOH strain. The researchers compared New York City death certificates filed after the vaccination period in 1947 to those filed in the same periods in 1946 and 1948.

They found no evidence during this earlier period that smallpox vaccination caused heart problems.