Officials: Smallpox Vaccine Didn't Kill Nurse

  1. officials: smallpox vaccine didn't kill nurse

    wed march 26, 2003 02:14 pm et

    by maggie fox, health and science correspondent

    washington (reuters) - a maryland nurse who died after getting a smallpox vaccine suffered a heart attack, which suggests the shot did not kill her, health officials said on wednesday.

    but officials at the centers for disease control and prevention put out a warning saying people with heart disease should not get the smallpox vaccine, just in case.

    the nurse, who worked at a private maryland hospital, died on sunday in virginia. she got her smallpox immunization on march 18.

    "the autopsy was conducted on tuesday and it indicates a heart attack was the cause of death," lucy caldwell of the virginia department of health said in a telephone interview.

    this, said caldwell, suggests but does not prove that her death was not a side effect of the vaccine.

    "we feel it certainly would not have been the primary cause. but additional tests will be conducted to rule out that it could have been a contributing factor," she said.

    the nurse was one of seven female healthcare workers who developed heart symptoms after being vaccinated, said cdc head dr. julie gerberding.

    "we have seven patients with what looks like coronary artery disease and two additional patients that have inflammatory conditions that have affected the heart," gerberding told reporters on tuesday night.

    gerberding said she doubted any of the cases were caused by the smallpox vaccine but the cdc was being extra careful. she noted all the patients had heart disease to begin with.

    "and that's why we cannot necessarily ascribe any relationship of vaccination to these events. it could be entirely coincidental. but until we know that for sure, we're taking this precautionary step," she said.

    the cdc says more than 25,000 heath workers have received the smallpox vaccine. they will then be ready to vaccinate other health and emergency workers and police in case there is ever a smallpox attack.

    the u.s. government hopes to vaccinate 450,000 health workers in this first phase of the program. half a million troops are also being vaccinated.

    smallpox was eradicated in 1979 but the government fears iraq and other countries have developed smallpox for use as a biological weapon.

    the vaccine can have severe side effects, mostly in young children and those with weak immune systems. in the past, it killed between one and two people per million who got the shot and made up to 52 extremely ill.

    i hadn't heard about this yet? anyone else hear about this yet?
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  3. by   altomga
    I had not...thanks for posting!!
  4. by   AAHZ
  5. by   JedsMom
    News to me
  6. by   P_RN
    i hadn't heard this either. you'd think it would have been on the national news......
  7. by   kids
    I'll try to dig up the reality I think 6 healthcare workers have died of cardiac problems after being given the vaccine, all in their 50s, all with an underlying cardiac problem.
  8. by   kids
    Here is the link to the story copied below...

    Officials: No smallpox shots for people with heart problems
    Wednesday, March 26, 2003 Posted: 4:23 PM EST (2123 GMT)

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Health officials are recommending that people with heart disease not get vaccinated against smallpox as authorities investigate a possible link between the vaccine and heart problems.

    The vaccination has never been associated with heart problems before, but the warning and the investigation came Tuesday, after a Maryland woman died of a heart attack and six others became ill after being inoculated.

    "I think we want to err on the side of safety," Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday.

    Gerberding emphasized that officials do not know whether there is a connection and said the national vaccination program, off to a slow start, must move forward to prepare for the possibility of a bioterror attack with smallpox.

    "The potential for terrorism has probably never been higher," she said.

    Three of the seven people under investigation suffered heart attacks, including the Maryland woman who died, another woman who is now on life support and a third woman who was hospitalized and released. All three were health care or public health workers in their 50s.

    Two other people developed angina, or chest pain.

    All five of these patients had risk factors for heart disease before the vaccination, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension or use of tobacco, Gerberding said.

    The other two patients under investigation suffered from heart inflammation.

    Gerberding said she does not expect to find a link between the heart trouble and the vaccine but wants further study before ruling it out.

    "It could be entirely coincidental," she said. "Coronary artery disease is a very common condition in our society."

    The vaccine carries well-documented side effects, but they have never included heart problems. Still, the data were gathered during a time when most people being vaccinated were young children not likely to have heart trouble, Gerberding noted.

    Is there a trigger?
    The CDC planned to gather cardiac experts on Wednesday to consider whether something in the vaccine might be triggering heart problems in people who already have risk factors.

    Health officials also plan to compare the rate of heart problems in the pool of smallpox vaccine recipients with the rate expected in a similar population of people who have not been vaccinated.

    Under the new, temporary guidelines, people who have been diagnosed with serious heart disease such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, previous heart attack and angina are being told not to get the vaccine.

    Gerberding said she expects the new guidelines, which are being delivered to the states immediately, to eliminate fewer than 10 percent of potential vaccines.

    Existing guidelines already screen out people with conditions that are known to increase the chances of side effects, including people with HIV, pregnant women, organ transplant recipients and people with a history of skin disorders.

    The woman who died, a hospital worker in Salisbury, Maryland, was vaccinated a week ago. She died five days later, on Sunday, in Arlington, Virginia, state officials said. An autopsy was performed Tuesday.

    Her death is the first associated with either the civilian vaccination program that began two months ago or the military program launched in December.

    As of March 14, states had vaccinated 21,698 civilians, mostly in public health departments and hospitals. Concerns about the vaccine's risk have helped keep the numbers well below the 450,000 initially expected.

    The military program, where vaccinations are mandatory, has vaccinated "well over" 100,000 soldiers, the Pentagon said.

    Based on studies in the late 1960s, experts estimate that one or two people out of every million being vaccinated for the first time will die. The death rate for those being revaccinated was lower: Two people died out of 8.5 million who were revaccinated in a 1968 study.

    Additionally, 14 to 52 people out of every million being vaccinated for the first time are expected to suffer life-threatening side effects.

    That's because the smallpox vaccine is made with a live virus called vaccinia, a cousin to smallpox which can cause illness if it escapes the inoculation site and infects another part of the body. Vaccinia can also infect those who touch someone else's vaccination site.

    The last U.S. case of smallpox was in 1949, and routine vaccinations against the disease ended here in 1972, as the disease was on the wane globally.

    In December, President Bush ordered that vaccinations resume for health workers, emergency responders and the military amid fears that smallpox could be used as a bioterror weapon.
  9. by   fab4fan
    originally posted by p_rn
    i hadn't heard this either. you'd think it would have been on the national news......
    it would have...had it happened to seven male physicians.
  10. by   deespoohbear
    Originally posted by fab4fan
    It would have...had it happened to seven male physicians.

    Sad, but true. The outrage would continue forever!!
  11. by   Vsummer1
    Yes I heard about it. But when I brought it up in class today (as the instructor was talking about smallpox vaccination) it was poo-poo'd. That in itself is one thing, being that there is no evidence of the correlation, but...... Then the instructor mentioned that since she had the scar from being vaccinated in her youth, she wondered if she even needed to be re-vaccinated.

    Hello, clue phone! Do not teach if you do not know the basics of the issue. As in, no, having the scar does not confer immunity and it wore off years ago! Needless to say, I kept my mouth shut since the instructor didn't even have the basics to work with, much less any current information from the CDC.
  12. by   NurseGirlKaren
    FTR, I saw it on the national news last night. Sorry to burst your bubble. Salisbury MD is my hometown
  13. by   AAHZ
    I saw it on 2 of the "all news" networks last night.
  14. by   sjoe
    fab writes: "It would have...had it happened to seven male physicians."

    You get right to the point!! Unfortunately, the newspapers have the notion of patriotism and volunteering for this vaccine mixed up together, and we continue to see articles expressing surprise that every hospital and every healthcare worker in the US hasn't already demanded to be vaccinated.

    I have yet to see any information about an available lab test to determine whether someone who received it as a child remains protected, just a lot of guesswork that "maybe not after 10 years." Seems to me a lot of $$$ could be saved and a lot of worrying dispensed with should such a test be designed (or used, if we presently have one), instead of blindly and haphazardly giving out a very risky vaccine.