Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Smallpox Redux

I have a question for the old-timers out there (and you know who you are). I was probably the last person in America to get the smallpox vaccine when I was a kid (I'm 36). For those who were older and remember those times, was there as much of a concern over the potential side-effects of the vaccine then as there was today?

UPDATE - Thanks for the emails, folks. From what I've gathered from your replies, most folks back then were basking in the glow of the recent medical advances (smallpox, polio, TB) and were happy to oblige to assure themselves and their families of freedom from a scourge a number of them had witnessed personally.

Additional differences between then and now is that the media was more attuned to the public good and less inclined to sensationalize the risks, there was less fear of litigation from those who might experience ill effects, and that due to AIDS, chemotherapy, etc - there are more people wakling around today at risk because they're immunosuppressed. Another interesting thought was that today's vaccines maybe modified to combat a "militarized" strain of smallpox.

Scientists estimate 15-70 out of a a million vaccine recipients would develop life-threatening reactions. Does anyone remember if this ratio actually played out before, as well?

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