Questions & Answers
Smallpox - Vaccine - Cardiac Related Reactions
Back to Parent Q&A Category Back to All Smallpox Q&A Back to All Q&A Back to Smallpox

Heart Conditions That Exempt Someone From Smallpox Vaccination

  1. Will DoD defer smallpox vaccination in people who have heart conditions?

    Yes. We will defer people with serious heart or blood vessel-related conditions. From the standpoint of military readiness, people with major heart conditions are unlikely to be in military service. Some examples include a history of angina, an earlier heart attack, artery disease, congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, stroke, "mini stroke", or chest pain or shortness of breath with activity (such as walking up stairs). If you have concerns about your health history, speak with your health care provider before vaccination.

    Similar to the CDC, and based on input from the American College of Cardiology, we will also defer people with three or more cardiac risk factors. The risk factors include:

    (1) current smoker or tobacco user,
    (2) high blood pressure,
    (3) high cholesterol or triglycerides,
    (4) high blood sugar,
    (5) a heart condition before age 50 in a parent, brother, or sister.

    Vaccination of other people should continue as planned.

    If you smoke, we encourage you to stop.

  2. What about people who had a smallpox vaccination when they were younger, and then later had a heart attack or heart condition? Should these people be deferred?
    Yes, if someone has a history of a serious heart condition, he or she should be deferred from receiving smallpox vaccine in a non-emergency situation. In the event of a smallpox outbreak, vaccination would be recommended.

  3. If somebody with a serious heart condition is exposed to the disease smallpox, should they get the smallpox vaccine?
    In most cases, experts agree, people directly exposed to the disease smallpox (i.e., variola virus) should get the smallpox vaccine. In an emergency situation, this would apply to people with serious heart conditions.

  4. I recently received the smallpox vaccination, and I have a history of heart conditions. What should I do?
    Unless you are experiencing symptoms, such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or pain radiating down your arm or to your neck, you shouldn't do anything special. If you start having these symptoms, you should seek medical care right away.