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First New Smallpox Vaccine Approved Since 1931

In case of bioterror attack

TUESDAY, Sept. 4, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the licensing of a new smallpox vaccine, the first new smallpox inoculation to be FDA sanctioned since 1931.

The vaccine, ACAM2000 -- made by Acambis Inc. of Cambridge, England -- will be for inoculating people at "high risk of exposure to smallpox and could be used to protect individuals and populations during a bioterrorist attack," the FDA said in a statement.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paid $30 million for 10 million doses of ACAM2000 in 2006, and the FDA's announcement of the vaccine's licensing indicates that it will become a main source to protect against smallpox if it becomes necessary.

The last case of smallpox, which is often fatal, was reported in Somalia in 1977. But since the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, closely followed by the mailing of anthrax spores that struck 22 people and killed five, the U.S. government has worked to prevent bioterror attacks, including smallpox.

"The licensing of ACAM2000 will make us better prepared as a nation because it provides an important, effective tool for protecting first responders and individuals with a high risk of exposure from this potentially lethal disease," said Rear Adm. W. Craig Vanderwagen, M.D., assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

Initially, the vaccine would be made available to those who are most exposed to smallpox, the FDA said.

More information

Visit the FDA to learn more.

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