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Smallpox vaccine: Recommended for
Many people with CFIDS are
wondering whether they should be vaccinated against smallpox when the federal
government rolls out its national immunization program over the next year. The
answer, as with flu vaccines and similar shots, is not clear-cut.
The smallpox vaccine carries a high risk of side effects.
According to the official government Web site
www.smallpox.gov, up to 20 percent of people
develop headache, fatigue, muscle aches, pain or chills after smallpox
vaccination. Anywhere from 14-52 people out of every one million vaccinated for
the first time experience potentially life-threatening reactions.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), people with CFIDS may
experience a relapse in their CFS symptoms following smallpox vaccine, similar
to relapses following other physical or mental stresses. Many people with
CFIDS do not fall into the official categories
of people who should not be vaccinated — those who have had skin conditions or
weakened immune systems from cancer treatment, organ transplantation or
conditions like HIV, adolescents and children, pregnant or breastfeeding women
or people who are allergic to the vaccine’s components.
For now, CDC advises people with CFS (and any other chronic
illnesses that do not specifically preclude vaccination) to consult with their
primary health care providers concerning their personal situation before they
It is worth noting, however, that vaccination within 3 days of
exposure to smallpox will completely prevent or significantly modify smallpox in
the vast majority of people. In the event of a smallpox attack, everyone exposed
will be vaccinated, regardless of vaccination history.
is Research and Public Policy Manager for The
CFIDS Association of