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Who should not get the Smallpox Vaccine now?

At this time, the age guidelines for receiving the smallpox vaccine are people between the ages of 18 and 65 years of age.

Some people are at greater risk for serious side effects from the smallpox vaccine. Individuals who have any of the following conditions, or live with someone who does, should NOT get the smallpox vaccine unless they have been exposed to the smallpox virus:

  • 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 or plans to become pregnant within one month of vaccination.
In addition, individuals should not get the smallpox vaccine if they:
  • Are allergic to the vaccine or any of its ingredients (polymyxin B, streptomycin, chlortetracycline, neomycin).
  • Have a moderate or severe short-term illness. These people should wait until they are completely recovered to get the vaccine.
  • Are currently breastfeeding.
  • Are using steroid drops in their eyes. These people should wait until they are no longer using the medication to get the vaccine.

Again, people who have been directly exposed to the smallpox virus should get the vaccine, regardless of their health status. Vaccination within 3 days of exposure will prevent or significantly lessen the severity of smallpox symptoms in the vast majority of people. Vaccination 4 to 7 days after exposure likely offers some protection from disease or may modify the severity of disease.
If offered the smallpox vaccine, individuals should tell their immunization provider if they have any of the aforementioned conditions, or even if they suspect they might.
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)