Heart Patients Advised against Shot; Woman Dies, Six Others Ill after Smallpox Immunization

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 27, 2003 | Go to article overview

Heart Patients Advised against Shot; Woman Dies, Six Others Ill after Smallpox Immunization


Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Federal health officials are advising against the smallpox inoculation for those with heart disease until they determine whether the vaccine can contribute to cardiac problems.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta issued its "temporary deferral" advisory late Tuesday after a Maryland woman who had been vaccinated died of a heart attack. Six other persons also have experienced coronary problems after their inoculations.

"At this time, we have no cause-and-effect relationship ... but we're working with health officials to explore any possibility" of a link between the smallpox vaccine and heart disease, CDC spokeswoman Karen Hunter said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Three women, all health care workers in their 50s, suffered heart attacks. One died, another is on life support and a third is recovering, CDC Director Julie Gerberding said Tuesday night. The condition of the patient on life support was not available yesterday.

Two other persons developed angina, or chest pain, after their vaccinations, and another two experienced inflammation of the membrane surrounding the heart.

Dr. Gerberding said the five persons who suffered heart attacks or angina after volunteering for the smallpox vaccine had prior risk factors for heart disease. The other two patients did not, she said.

Primary risk factors include diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.

Ms. Hunter said the smallpox vaccine, which in rare cases is known to cause life-threatening conditions and death, has never been associated with heart problems.

Data collected in the 1960s about the vaccine's side effects primarily involved children, who were required to receive the smallpox inoculation before attending school and who would not be likely to have heart problems, she said.

"But since this is an older population now getting the smallpox vaccine, we'll be looking at any type of health event that follows vaccination ... we're erring on the side of caution," Ms. Hunter said.

The Maryland woman who died, a nurse at a Salisbury hospital, was vaccinated March 18.

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Heart Patients Advised against Shot; Woman Dies, Six Others Ill after Smallpox Immunization
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