1 What is ACAM2000?

Brand: ACAM2000, Dryvax

Generic: Smallpox vaccine

ACAM2000 is an active immunizing vaccine, containing a live but weakened virus, which is used for the prevention of this infection. It stimulates the immune system and causes it to make antibodies against this virus. These antibodies stay in the blood and prevent any future infection.

This is the only vaccine which has been used so effectively in the world that it resulted in eradication of the disease globally. It is a prescription medication available only by authorization from prescribing physician or Center for Disease Control (CDC). It is available in the form of powder which can be used either to make suspension or solution.

2 What to Know Before Using

As with initiation of any therapy, it is important for doctor and patient to have detailed discussion about ACAM2000 and it usage. The doctor should inform patient of all the merits and demerits of the use of this vaccine and patient should let the doctor know about any queries or doubts.

  • Detailed history of a patient is extremely important prior to any medical therapy and in this case, it is more likely that a drug be started after it. Allergies or any history of allergy to any drug, food, preservatives, dyes or animal products; history of drug usage, past medical or surgical procedure should also be kept in record to predict any drug interaction.
  • Physical examination should be done before starting this drug so that any physiological or pathological condition with which this drug may interfere may be ruled out.
  • Age specific analysis of patients helps in keeping a safety profile. Some drugs are suitable for one age group and lethal for the other; hence it is necessary to have an assessment while keeping age in view. There is not enough evidence by studies to prove its safety and efficacy in children and elderly in comparison to young adults. However, it is considered to have similar effects in each age group. This vaccine is found to have some effects on fetus; hence it should be used only when there is no alternative in pregnant women. There is no proof of its harmfulness in breastfeeding mothers.
  • Drug interactions may happen due to usage of other drugs with smallpox vaccine. It is important for the patient to give a detailed drug history so that the physician can predict these interactions and change the drug or dosage as the physician deems right. It is not recommended to use this vaccine along with Deflazacort. The use of this drug with anti-cancer drugs, monoclonal antibodies, anti-metabolites and other vaccines is not favorable and the doctor may change the dosage of either of these depending on condition and risks involved. The effect of alcohol, tobacco and certain foods should be discussed in detail with the consulting physician.
  • Other medical conditions may interfere with this vaccine and result in more side effects. Make sure to tell the doctor about any condition like bone marrow or any other organ transplant, cancer, AIDS or any other immune deficiency, leukemia or lymphoma, burns, chest pain, chickenpox, heart failure, dermatitis, diabetes, eczema, eye disease, heart attack or any history of heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol in the blood, skin problems and stroke.

3 Proper Usage

ACAM2000 is given under special clinical settings or under Centre for Disease Control (CDC) by a trained nurse or any other medical care professional.

There may be a need to get a booster dose after every three years which will be taken if instructed.

4 Precautions to Take

In using ACAM2000, you must be careful and take some precautions as advised by your doctor. Precautions are vital for any therapy to work at optimum rate. These are also necessary to decrease the side effects or at least make these manageable.

There are some precautions which can maximize the effect of this vaccine:

  • Regular visits to the doctor should be made to check its progress.
  • Make sure to tell your doctor about smoking or drinking alcohol as these increase risks of heart problems.
  • Avoid pregnancy for at least three months after getting the vaccine.
  • Inform your doctor about any allergies.
  • Cover the vaccination site to avoid contact spread to different parts of the body.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after touching the vaccination site to prevent its infection on other parts of the body.
  • Wait for 30 days after vaccination to breastfeed, donate blood or to use a hot tub.
  • Inform the doctor about this vaccine before any blood test.
  • Consult your doctor if any complication has occurred. This vaccine causes heart problems and medical help should be approached as soon as possible in such case.

5 Potential Side Effects

ACAM2000 is associated with many side effects. Whatever the effect has occurred, no matter how trivial it is, consult your doctor about it. Some symptoms disappear only by waiting for some time.

Commonly occurring side effects include feeling unusually cold, shivering, swollen and tender lymph nodes.

Other side effects which occur less commonly include agitation, anxiety, back pain, blindness, skin problems, chest discomfort and pain, confusion, convulsions, cough, diarrhea, difficulty in breathing, dizziness, drowsiness, fast heartbeat, fever, hallucinations, headache, irritability, joint or muscle pain, loss of consciousness, mood or mental changes, red skin lesions, sore throat, stiff neck, chest tightness, unusual tiredness, vomiting and wheezing.

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