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Open Access Commentary

The Future of Smallpox Vaccination: is MVA the key?

Mark K Slifka

Author Affiliations

Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, Oregon Health & Sciences University, 505 NW 185th Avenue, Beaverton, OR 97006, USA

Medical Immunology 2005, 4:2  doi:10.1186/1476-9433-4-2

Published: 1 March 2005

Abstract

Eradication of the smallpox virus through extensive global vaccination efforts has resulted in one of the most important breakthroughs in medical history, saving countless lives from the severe morbidity and mortality that is associated with this disease. Although smallpox is now extinct in nature, laboratory stocks of this virus still remain and the subject of smallpox vaccination has gained renewed attention due to the potential risk that smallpox may be used as a biological weapon by terrorists or rogue states. Despite having the longest history of any modern vaccine, there is still much to be learned about smallpox vaccination and the correlates of protection remain to be formally defined. This Commentary will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of traditional smallpox vaccination in comparison with immunization using modified vaccinia virus Ankura (MVA), a non-replicating virus with a strong safety record but weakened immunogenicity.