Infectious Disease Experts Recommend Against Mass Smallpox Vaccination

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- As the White House weighs the options for a national smallpox immunization plan, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) continues to recommend that the U.S. not begin routine mass immunization against smallpox, even on a voluntary basis, citing the low risk of disease, the side effects of the smallpox vaccine and the implications for public confidence in the immunization system.

"IDSA advocates vaccinating those healthcare workers who would respond to possible smallpox cases and strengthening the public health infrastructure so that we can immunize the public if that becomes necessary. However, in the absence of naturally occurring smallpox, we maintain that mass vaccination of the general public is not warranted at the present time," said IDSA president W. Michael Scheld, MD, in a letter sent yesterday to President Bush.

The complete text of the letter is available on IDSA's Web site at


The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), based in Alexandria, Va., is a professional society representing nearly 7,000 physicians and scientists who specialize in infectious diseases. The Bioterrorism Information and Resources section of the IDSA Web site can be accessed at