Smallpox Protection NPR's Jon Hamilton looks at how the nation would respond in case of an attack involving smallpox virus. Most doctors have only seen smallpox pictures in textbooks. It was eliminated from the worldwide human population in the 1980s. Many people were vaccinated against smallpox until 1972. But doctors say most of those immunizations wore off a long time ago. There are limited stockpiles of the smallpox vaccine, but public health officials fear that most of what exists is not usable.