In the wake of the 911 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, the public was led to believe that more attacks were imminent and that bio-warfare was a likely weapon.
In Canada, the Vancouver Sun reported (Oct.22/01) that “Canada wants to increase its reserves of smallpox vaccine”…and that “Ottawa has stockpiled about 380,000 doses of the vaccine which, through dilution, could treat about three million people.” With statements like “smallpox is considered one of the most dangerous biological weapons”, health officials in North America are whipping up a tremendous wave of fear, priming the public to anticipate a return of the dread disease. As pharmaceutical companies go into high gear vaccine production, serious concerns have arisen about the impact of this highly reactive vaccine on millions of people whose immune systems are compromised. Washington Post – Oct 2.01 – “Mass vaccination is expensive and logistically difficult, says Philip Russell, professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and an expert on infectious diseases. Some say it may also be medically inadvisable, given the likelihood of side effects, if the risk of exposure is unknown. For example, vaccinating the entire country against smallpox, a disease eradicated except for small stockpiles of vaccine, would cause tens of thousands of deaths, says Russell, and tie up funds that might be better spent elsewhere.”
ABC News recently reported that scientists are worried. “Chilling photographs in the CDC document show children with severe, sometimes fatal, vaccine side effects, which illustrates why it would be a difficult decision to renew routine inoculations unless smallpox were to reappear.”
A New York Times article (Oct. 22/01) reported that “The American population appears to be more vulnerable to dangerous smallpox vaccine reactions now than it was when civilians stopped being vaccinated in 1972, Dr. Fauci and other experts said.
Roughly 1 in 4,000 healthy recipients of the vaccine encounter serious side effects that clearly require treatment with vaccinia immune globulin (a human blood product).
Federal agencies have also begun contacting medical groups to estimate the number of Americans with immune-system difficulties who will not be able to receive smallpox vaccines, Dr. Fauci said; some doctors have guessed that there are a million such Americans. If there is a smallpox outbreak and vaccinations begin, these people will be urged to take extra care not only in avoiding smallpox-infected people but also in avoiding any physical contact with the sites of other people’s vaccinations.
Even when given to healthy people, smallpox vaccines infrequently produce dangerous reactions because the vaccine uses a live vaccinia virus, which is similar to smallpox. Vaccinia can cause large, oozing lesions spreading from the site of the vaccine, especially in people with immune system problems or severe skin problems. It can be life-threatening. A large but unknown number of Americans now have immune systems that are either depressed because of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, or have been chemically suppressed during treatments for cancer, organ transplants, severe burns, autoimmune diseases like lupus, and other health problems.
When Army doctors administered a routine smallpox vaccine in the mid-1980’s to a soldier in basic training who seemed healthy but was actually developing AIDS, his body became covered with large sores and he nearly died. Saving him required all of the vaccinia immune globulin in a large Army medical depot, said Dr. D. Craig Wright, a former military doctor who treated the soldier.