Why do we not use the smallpox vaccine to protect against AIDS

I remember reading a while back about how smallpox vaccines slowed the ability of AIDS to infect the human body


Many researchers have proposed links between protection against smallpox and against the AIDS virus. Some studies have noted that older people who were vaccinated against smallpox were also less likely to contract HIV.

A study published in 1999 showed that a relative of smallpox, called the myxoma poxvirus, uses the same cellular doorway – the CCR5 receptor – to infect a cell as AIDS does.

And studies have noted that people with certain mutations in CCR5 are resistant to HIV infection.

Alibek, Raymond Weinstein and colleagues at George Mason used these studies as the basis for their experiment, said Jerry Coughter, director of life science management at the university.

They took the blood of 10 people vaccinated against smallpox and 10 people who had never been vaccinated against smallpox, and exposed both batches to the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

“They saw an average four-fold reduction in infectivity,” Coughter said in a telephone interview.

So why don’t people vaccinate those at high risk (prostitutes, truck drivers & military personnel in sub sahara Africa)

Is it the cost, the dangers or what? I don’t know what the price is, some sites say $15 a person, some say $200 a person.

Given that at even $200 a pop, it’s still cheaper than the various drug cocktails used to treat HIV, I can’t imagine that it’s cost holding them back.

IANAD and IANDS(cientist) … yet.

but i’ll try my hand. Assuming the article correct and vaccination against smallpox correlates to HIV resistance(not immunity!) then it would indicate that small pox(or rather Vaccinia virus) by some fluke of evolution has similar morphological features with HIV. This leads to limited cross-reactivity of smallpox antibodies against HIV virus. While this is useful against initial infection it is ultimately useless later on. This is because HIV is a highly highly mutable virus and overtime(and not much time mind you. People have been found with different strains for each REGION of their body) it’s outer morphological features will evolve into something that is not cross-reactive with small pox antibodies.

I suspect that a vaccine against myxoma poxvirus would be more effective against HIV then Small pox. Presumedly because it has a CCR5 receptor which I assume is HIV also has and is highly conserved in HIV.

I’d sign up for a shot.

Correct me if I’m wrong (sincerely, I’m working only on my very vague recollection so correct me if I’m wrong), but isn’t the smallpox vaccination one of the standard vaccinations received by infants and children in the United States?

It seems to me that the very fact that plently of people in the United States contract HIV would suggest that if indeed the smallpox vaccine does result in resistence to HIV, that resistence must be very weak and ineffective.

No, children in the U.S. are no longer vaccinated against smallpox.

It was stopped in the early 70s I believe. Smallpox vaccinations are only given to those who have a special need for it.


I was born in 1976 in Ohio and wasn’t vaccinated against smallpox.

If a person has AIDS and it has not been detected yet, giving that person a standard live-virus smallpox vaccination could basically give him smallpox.

At least that’s what they told me the last time I got a live-virus smallpox vaccination (Nov. 1987). I was first vaccinated as a toddler in 1971 or 1972, I had no appreciable reaction either time (no scar).

The scar doesn’t come from a reaction to smallpox. It comes from the bifurcated needle used to administer the shot.

my brother was born in 74, and he has the ‘scar’; myself in 78 without. must have been 1975.

I’m pretty sure US Military personell in SubSahara Africa would receive the Small Pox vaccine before going there. I just received the vaccine in February and that was just to go to Korea.

I was born in 1975, no scar, so I don’t think I was.

The CDC says that routine smallpox vaccination stopped in the US in 1972.

Actually, the cost is everything. Keep in mind, it’s the patient (or the HMO) that pays the bill, and the medical companies discovered many years ago that it’s far more profitable to charge an AIDS patient $10,000/mo. for a lifetime of “cocktail” drugs, as opposed to a one-time $200 vaccination. That’s basically why nobody has a vaccine for AIDS yet, nor are we likely to have one soon. There’s too much money to be made.

That said, I can’t see the point in using a vaccine designed for a totally different illness, especially one where the risk far outweighs any potential benefit.

Do you really think that this is the truth? Where does human ego fit into your equation? If a scientist finds the cure for AIDS, we’ll hear about it even if the giant multinational pharmacutical company wants to keep it quiet. Your claim has the same validity as the 300 mile carburetor conspiracy claim.

But there were numerous cases of HIV infection in the US in the 1980s. If children in the US stopped being vaccinated sometime between 1972 and the mid-1970s, this would imply that the vast majority of cases of HIV in the 1980s happened to people who had got the smallpox vaccine. Thus if the smallpox vaccine does confers some immunity to HIV infection, it is rather imperfect.

Smallpox vaccination is no longer given because smallpox is extinct except in a couple of laboratories. (I was vaccinated against smallpox about 45 years ago, so I’m probably no longer immune to it.)

IIRC, when everyone was in a panic about the thought of terrorists getting hold of smallpox it was stated that folks needed a booster shot every few years, if the were to still be immune, and I think that the last widely available batches of the stuff that were used in late 60s/early70s were later found to be defective and conferred no immunity against smallpox.

Sorry, but no. It comes from the immunologic reaction of the body to the smallpox vaccine. It has the classic round scar pattern due to how it’s given, though.

Oh, and here’s the cite: Smallpox Vaccination and Adverse Reactions