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Smallpox Home

Press Release

For Immediate Release

January 22, 2003
Contact: CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

CDC Begins Shipping Smallpox Vaccine to the States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that the agency has begun distributing smallpox vaccine to state and local governments that will coordinate the vaccination of smallpox response teams. The teams are part of the nation's voluntary vaccination program to protect Americans from the potential threat of a terrorist attack involving the release of the smallpox virus.

"At this time, our highest priority is to vaccinate members of smallpox response teams in the states," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director, CDC. "Several months of detailed planning and training, and the development of scientifically sound and informative educational materials have prepared us for the safe and rapid implementation of the plan to vaccinate those healthcare professionals who would be on the front lines in the event of a smallpox attack."

Thus far this week, CDC delivered kits with enough vaccine and needles for 21,600 public health and healthcare workers to Connecticut, Nebraska, Vermont and Los Angeles County. As of today, 20 states (including 1 county) have requested nearly 100,000 doses of vaccine.

This is the first shipment of vaccine to state and local governments under the President's plan to protect the American people from an intentional release of the smallpox virus. Under the program, smallpox vaccine is being offered to those most likely to respond to a potential outbreak of the disease. By preparing these smallpox response teams, the government will be able to protect the American people in the event of a smallpox release.

In all states, smallpox vaccination is voluntary. Each state notifies CDC when it is ready to receive its shipment of smallpox vaccine to begin pre-event vaccination of public health and healthcare workers.

Once CDC receives a request for smallpox vaccine from a state, the order is forwarded to the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile for processing and shipment.

Smallpox vaccine is not given with a hypodermic needle. The vaccine is administered using a bifurcated (two-pronged) needle that is dipped into the vaccine solution. The needle is used to prick the skin, usually the upper arm, several times in a few seconds. Each shipment of vaccine includes bifurcated needles.

For more information about smallpox, visit or Spanish-language materials are available at

CDC has a public information hotline for questions about smallpox and smallpox vaccine at 888-246-2675; Spanish 888-246-2857; TTY 866-874-2646.

View the videos of Dr. Gerberding's interview

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CDC protects people's health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhances health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promotes healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national, and international organizations.

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This page last updated January 22, 2003

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