Questions & Answers
Smallpox - Questions and Answers for Household Members and Community Members
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Possible Family Member Reactions to the Smallpox Vaccine

  1. What if a family member accidentally develops a small blister or set of blisters or other reaction that might be the result of having contact with vaccine virus from the vaccinated person? What should they do?
    They should go to their usual source of care (e.g., military clinic) and explain the situation. Mention that the Service member was recently vaccinated against smallpox. For Service members in the Reserve Component, contact the Military Medical Support Office (MMSO) 888-647-6676 if the member is not enrolled in an MTF.

  2. What can I do to prevent spreading vaccinia virus to my household pets?

    There are no restrictions for recently vaccinated people in regards to contact or handling of animals, other than keeping animals away from the vaccination site and bandages that covered it.

    There is no evidence that vaccinia virus infects cats, dogs, or other household pets. The same steps you take to prevent spreading the virus elsewhere on your body or to somebody else (e.g., sleeves, bandages, hand washing) will keep the virus from reaching your pet.

  3. May I visit with friends and family after my smallpox vaccination?
    Yes, you may visit with other people after your smallpox vaccination, but keep your vaccination site covered with both a bandage and a shirt sleeve. Also, wash your hands if you touch your smallpox vaccination site. There are some individuals who you need to be especially careful around. These individuals include those for whom the vaccine is contraindicated: pregnant females, elderly, and those with chronic medical conditions, cancer, immune deficiency diseases, and those on immunosuppressive medications.

  4. Is it safe for me to be around a child younger than one year old if I get the smallpox vaccination?
    If you are in close contact or live with a baby who is younger than one year old, a medical provider will usually recommend deferment of the smallpox vaccination until you report to your mobility/deployment assignment. However, if your commander decides that your vaccination is mission essential prior to deployment, he or she can authorize and arrange separate quarters for you.

  5. I just received the smallpox vaccine. Is it safe for me to sleep in the same bed with my significant other?
    You can sleep in the same bed and continue intimate relationships as long as you make sure the vaccination site is covered and neither of you touch it. Some people have medical conditions that make them more likely to have serious complications if they are infected with the smallpox vaccine virus. In this case, special precautions might be necessary. If you have a question or concern about this, please contact the IHB.

  6. My wife is pregnant. Should I receive smallpox vaccine?
    You should not receive smallpox vaccine if you will have close contact with a pregnant woman because of the small risk of spreading the vaccine virus to the woman. Fetuses of pregnant women who inadvertently receive the vaccine or receive a contact transmission of the vaccine are at risk for a rare complication called fetal vaccinia. The military offers options for military personnel in these circumstances such as temporary exemption or alternative housing. For further questions, see our pregnancy page or contact the IHB.

  7. I live with someone who has a chronic skin condition (i.e., eczema, acne, psoriasis, etc). Should I receive smallpox vaccine?
    You should not receive smallpox vaccine if you have close contact with someone who has an atypical skin condition. This is because the virus can spread through direct contact with the vaccination site or fluids, and persons with a history of chronic skin conditions or active skin lesions have higher risks for developing serious health problems related to the smallpox vaccine.

    If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact the IHB for help.