Questions & Answers
Smallpox - Evidence of Immunity and Vaccination - Response Interpretation
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Evidence of Immunity Against Smallpox

  1. After vaccination, what evidence suggests an individual developed immunity against smallpox?

    Smallpox vaccination with live vaccinia virus causes the body to produce neutralizing IgG antibodies, as well as vaccinia-specific cell-mediated immunity. In a person with normal immune function, neutralizing antibodies appear about 10 days after primary vaccination and 7 days after revaccination. Clinically, people are considered fully protected after a successful response is demonstrated at the site of vaccination, about 7 days after vaccination.

    The vaccination site should be inspected 6 to 8 days after vaccination and the response interpreted at that time. The World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Smallpox defines two types of responses. The responses include:

    (a) a major reaction, which indicates that virus replication has taken place and vaccination was successful; or

    (b) an equivocal reaction, which either indicates (1) a possible consequence of immunity adequate to suppress viral multiplication or (2) allergic reactions to an inactive vaccine without production of immunity.