This medication is injected in order to protect patients from smallpox throughout their lives. The medication introduces a small amount of a live virus into the patient’s system in order to cause him or her to become immune to the disease. Since smallpox has been eradicated completely in the United States, patients are no longer given this medication unless they are exposed to the virus or are traveling to an area where smallpox occurs regularly.
This medication causes an infection at the injection site in order to work. The arm usually gets sore and itches for a few weeks. Some patients may also have a fever.
The vaccination contains a live virus, so patients must care carefully for the vaccination site to stop the virus from spreading to other parts of the body. However, the vaccination cannot give you smallpox.
Occasionally, patients may have a more serious or even a life-threatening reaction to the smallpox vaccine. Patients with compromised immune systems, such as those who have HIV or those who are on immunosuppressive drugs following an organ transplant, are more likely to have serious illnesses after taking this vaccine.