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If you previously got a smallpox vaccine does it provide protection against monkeypox?

The CDC said Monkeypox is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, and smallpox vaccines can provide some protection against Monkeypox.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With monkeypox cases climbing across the U.S. and in the Carolinas, many people who were vaccinated for smallpox have been asking if that vaccine will protect them from monkeypox

WCNC Charlotte's VERIFY team got this question from viewer Lynda O.:

"Does the smallpox vaccine given to children prior to 1972 confer immunity to Monkeypox?"


The CDC said monkeypox is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, and smallpox vaccines can provide some protection against monkeypox. 

Right now, the two smallpox vaccines on the market are also being used to protect against monkeypox and given to people who are considered high risk. The CDC said past data shows the smallpox vaccine is 85% effective in preventing monkeypox.

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But what happens if you got the smallpox vaccine decades ago? The CDC said routine smallpox vaccinations stopped in 1972 after the disease was eradicated in the U.S., which means smallpox vaccines are no longer routinely given to the general public.

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Bell said although smallpox vaccines do help against monkeypox, scientists are still looking into how long that protection would last and whether people who got the vaccine before 1972 are still protected. 

"We don't fully understand whether or not individuals will receive full protection from previous vaccination, especially from decades-passed smallpox vaccination," Bell said.

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However, the CDC does note that in a 2003 monkeypox outbreak, some people who received the smallpox vaccine decades before, were infected. 

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Bell said researchers will continue studying this to see how long the vaccine can provide protection. 

"We do believe that previous smallpox vaccination may provide some immunity that hasn't been studied widely," Bell said. 

The CDC states if a person was exposed to monkeypox and has not received a smallpox vaccine within the last three years, they should consider getting vaccinated. 

Contact Meghan Bragg at mbragg@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit VERIFY.

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