Abstract The therapeutic potential of human vaccinia immunoglobulin (VIG) in orthopoxvirus infection was examined using two mouse models for human poxvirus, based on Ectromelia virus and Vaccinia Western Reserve (WR) respiratory infections. Despite the relatively fast clearance of human VIG from mice circulation, a single VIG injection protected immune-competent mice against both infections. Full protection against lethal Ectromelia virus infection was achieved by VIG injection up to one day post-exposure, and even injection of VIG two or three days post-infection conferred solid protection (60–80%). Nevertheless, VIG failed to protect VACV-WR challenged immune-deficient mice, even though repeated injections prolonged SCID mice survival. These results suggest the involvement of host immunity in protection. VIG provides the initial protective time-window allowing induction of the adaptive response required to achieve complete protection. Additionally, VIG can be administered in conjunction with active Vaccinia-Lister vaccination. Vaccine efficiency is not impaired, providing a non-prohibitive VIG dose is used. Thus, VIG can be used as a prophylactic measure against post-vaccinal complications but could also serve for post-exposure treatment against smallpox.