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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
October 22/29, 2003

Cardiac Deaths After a Mass Smallpox Vaccination Campaign— New York City, 1947

JAMA. 2003;290(16):2118-2119. doi:10.1001/jama.290.16.2118

MMWR. 2003;52:933-936

3 figures, 1 table omitted

During the first wave of the 2003 smallpox vaccination campaign, two ischemic cardiac deaths occurred in civilian vaccinees aged 55 and 57 years, and one occurred in a military vaccinee aged 55 years, 4-17 days after vaccination with the New York City Board of Health (NYCBOH) vaccinia strain.1-3 Whether these and 13 other recognized military and civilian nonfatal ischemic events among vaccinees were associated with smallpox vaccination is unclear. The same NYCBOH strain was used in 1947 to vaccinate approximately six million New York City (NYC) residents (80% of the population) during a 4-week period (April 4–May (2) after a smallpox outbreak. To determine whether smallpox vaccination increased the risk for cardiac death in 1947, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) analyzed data from NYC death certificates during that period. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which found no increases in cardiac, atherosclerotic, or all-cause deaths. The findings are consistent with a growing body of evidence suggesting that ischemic cardiac deaths observed after the 2003 campaign might have been unrelated to vaccine.