Two U.S. soldiers have smallpox vaccine reactions
Military: One recovering in hospital, one being monitored
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two soldiers out of "tens of thousands" who have received the smallpox vaccination have displayed "noteworthy" reactions, according to a Department of Defense statement Friday.
One was hospitalized and the other being monitored by medical authorities, and both are said to be doing well, according to the statement.
In December, President Bush ordered about 500,000 selected military personnel to receive the smallpox inoculation.
In its safety summary on the smallpox vaccination program, the Department of Defense said vaccinations of selected U.S. military forces began in early January.
One of the men with an adverse reaction was admitted to a military hospital overseas January 26 with encephalitis. He became ill eight days after receiving his smallpox vaccination, according to the statement.
"The possibility of a connection between the encephalitis and the vaccination is being investigated," the Defense Department statement said.
The 23-year-old soldier is "in good condition and is expected to be released from the hospital soon." said the report.
It also described the case of a 30-year-old soldier at a U.S. base who developed a rash with several pustules, or pus-filled blisters, about 10 days after he was vaccinated.
"The soldier is well and continues to work at his usual location," the statement said.
"Our safety experience with smallpox vaccinations to date is consistent with what we expected overall. We have seen a small number of adverse reactions to the vaccine, mostly minor," said William Winkenwerder, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, in the statement.
"We can expect additional reactions to occur, some will be significant reactions," according to the statement.
People most at risk are those with impaired immune systems.
People who have a serious case of the skin condition eczema, people who are being treated for cancer, or those who have had an organ transplant or are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are most vulnerable, said Dr. D.A. Henderson, who led the successful fight to eradicate smallpox in nature. The World Health Organization declared that effort a success in 1979.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that for every million vaccinations, there will be 14 to 52 life-threatening reactions, 49 to more than 900 serious but not life-threatening reactions, and one or two deaths.
President Bush received a smallpox vaccination December 21 and was reported to have no ill effects.
The push to vaccinate some sectors of the population against smallpox began because of feared threats of a terrorist attack using some form of biological weapons.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began distributing smallpox vaccine and needles for 21,600 public health and health care workers in Connecticut, Nebraska, Vermont and Los Angeles County.
"At this time, our highest priority is to vaccinate members of smallpox-response teams in the states," said CDC director, Dr. Julie Gerberding.