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Ask Dr Gupta

Questions about smallpox vaccinations

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Click here  to submit a medical question to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, then watch CNN at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday to see if it is answered.

Editor's note: CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta answers medical questions submitted by e-mail on "Your Health," which airs at 2:30 p.m. EST on Saturdays. Questions and answers are posted on after the show. This week, Dr. Gupta answers questions about smallpox that are frequently asked of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Q: Who has been vaccinated for smallpox?

A: Although some medical and military personnel are still vaccinated, most Americans under 30 have not been vaccinated.

The last routine vaccination was in 1972.

It is not known whether those people vaccinated before 1972 still have immunity.

However, it's believed that the risk of developing bad side-effects from the vaccine are lower in those who were once inoculated.

Q: Can people get smallpox from the vaccine?

A: No, you cannot get smallpox from the vaccine because the vaccine is made with the vaccinia -- not smallpox -- virus.

However, vaccinia is similar to smallpox, and if you come down with a case of vaccinia you can develop many of the same symptoms.

People most at risk of developing side-effects are those with compromised immune systems, such as AIDS and cancer patients, and those who have had transplants.

Another big category is anyone who has ever had a skin condition called eczema. Those people should definitely avoid the vaccine, even if they only had one flare-up years ago.

"Ask Dr. Gupta" is not intended to address specific questions concerning individual cases. CNN does not directly or indirectly practice medicine or provide medical advice, and nothing contained in the responses of CNN through its correspondents is a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always contact your doctor if you need medical advice or treatment, or have any questions regarding a medical condition.

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