Out with old, in with new smallpox vaccine

With a new smallpox vaccine accumulating in federal stockpiles, the U.S. government is disposing of millions of doses of Dryvax, the old smallpox vaccine that relies on skin scrapings from infected calves. Dryvax's problems are well documented. The vaccine spurred serious side effects like heart attacks and heart inflammation. But the vaccine was also responsible for eradicating smallpox in the United States.

Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of Vanderbilt University's department of preventive medicine, described the move to dispose of Dryvax as "historic," noting that it's the country's oldest vaccine. The vaccine was developed more than a hundred years ago by a predecessor company to Wyeth Laboratories. The company stopped making the vaccine a generation ago, but the government maintained a stockpile of 15 million doses.

With the rise of bioterrorism fears this decade, though, the government set out to create a new, more effective smallpox vaccine. That effort led to the approval of Acambis' ACAM2000, which was approved by the FDA last fall and is now filling new stockpiles.

- read the article in the Los Angeles Times

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