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If someone you have close, physical contact with is considering getting the smallpox vaccine, there are some things you should know

The smallpox vaccine contains a live virus called vaccinia, which is related to smallpox, though milder. The vaccine helps the body develop protection against smallpox. And while the smallpox vaccine is safe and effective for most who receive it, people with certain health conditions are more likely to have serious reactions to the vaccine. These people should not be vaccinated and they should not be in close household or similar intimate physical contact with someone who has been vaccinated.

Careful screening measures are in place to help ensure that people who are more susceptible to serious reactions, or who live with others who are more susceptible to serious reactions are not vaccinated. As your close contact considers vaccination, it is important that you actively participate in this screening process. Inform your close contact if you have any of the following conditions, or even if you have any concerns about any of these conditions.

Health conditions that would mean you should not be in close contact with someone who has been vaccinated are:

  • A diagnosis of eczema or atopic dermatitis, past or present
  • A weakened immune system, for whatever reason. HIV, cancer and some autoimmune diseases can weaken the immune system. Additionally, many medications can also weaken the immune system.
  • A skin condition with breaks in the skin
  • Pregnancy

If any of these conditions apply to you, you should not be in close contact with someone who has gotten smallpox vaccine because of the risk it poses to you (or your fetus if you are pregnant). If you have questions, you should consult your doctor or other health care provider.

Additional information is available on the Centers for Disease Control website at or by calling the CDC at 1-888-246-2675 (Español 888-246-2857)