DoD changes smallpox vaccine, effects minimal for Marines

13 Mar 2008 | Lance Cpl. M. Daniel Sanchez Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

The Department of Defense recently changed the type of smallpox vaccine used to protect service members, though the only effect for troops receiving it will be a few more needle pokes.

 The new vaccine, called AMCAM2000, hit shelves across the Marine Corps by the end of Feburary, after the old vaccine's former producer withdrew its manufacturing license.

 The method of administering the vaccine, called scarification, uses a small needle to apply it, traditionally poking the person in the upper arm, said Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Rodrigues, Marine Aircraft Group 13 corpsman. The old vaccine only called for three pokes with the needle the first time and 15 for future vaccinations, but ACAM2000 calls for 15 each time.

 The military's smallpox vaccination policy, designed to protect service members from smallpox if used as a weapon, remains the same, said Rodrigues.

 Marines must take precautions after they receive the vaccine because it is a live virus and can spread to other people or parts of the body through direct contact with the vaccinated area, said Rodrigues.

 "If you think in any way, shape or form that you might have touched the (contaminated) area always ensure that you wash your hands. That way, you’re not spreading it to anybody else," said Rodrigues.

 One way to minimize the risk of spreading the virus is to wear two levels of protection, like a bandage and a long-sleeve shirt, he said.

 The new vaccines will be stored in the national stockpile of medical supplies where Marine bases get them from, according to the Center for Disease Control.

 Smallpox is caused by the variola virus and is most known for the numerous, large, pus-filled blisters it causes to form all over the human body. It is categorized as, "posing one of the greatest potential threats to harming public," according to the CDC, and kills about 30 percent of unvaccinated people who become infected with it.

 The last case of naturally occurring smallpox in the United States was in 1949, and the last case in the world was reported in Somalia in 1977.

 The most common side effects to the vaccine include swollen lymph nodes, sore arm at the infection site, fever, headache, body ache and fatigue.

Marine Corps Air Station Yuma