Cardiac contraindications for smallpox vaccination

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the following statement on cardiac risk factors and smallpox vaccination:

As a precautionary step, if you have been diagnosed by a doctor as having a heart condition with or without symptoms you should NOT get the smallpox vaccine at this time while experts continue their investigations. These include conditions such as:

  • known coronary disease including:
    • previous myocardial infarction (heart attack);
    • angina (chest pain caused by lack of blood flow to the heart);
  • congestive heart failure;
  • cardiomyopathy (heart muscle becomes inflamed and doesn’t work as well as it should);
  • stroke or transient ischemic attack (a "mini-stroke" that produces stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage);
  • chest pain or shortness of breath with activity (such as walking up stairs);
  • other heart conditions under the care of a doctor.

In addition, you should NOT get the smallpox vaccine if you have 3 or more of the following risk factors:

  • You have been told by a doctor that you have high blood pressure.
  • You have been told by a doctor that you have high blood cholesterol.
  • You have been told by a doctor that you have diabetes or high blood sugar.
  • You have a first-degree relative (for example mother, father, brother, or sister) who had a heart condition before age 50.
  • You smoke cigarettes now.

(Editor’s note: For more information, go to: www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/vaccination/heartproblems.asp.)