The spectre of weaponized smallpox being unleashed on the world presents governments with pressing and onerous decisions. Should they vaccinate their populations? What risks are there? In today’s interconnected world, would containment of a new outbreak even be possible?
When the Soviets developed smallpox for potential military use they knew that, because of its lethal and unstoppable nature, it could only be a weapon of last resort. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union that weapon may now be in the hands of rogue states or terrorists.
more on Chronology
How dangerous might this weapon be? Experts make the point that while it cannot be precisely targeted, it could nevertheless be devastatingly effective. In June 2001, several U.S. bio-defense experts and think tanks ‘war-gamed” an attack they called “Dark Winter.” In it they simulated a smallpox attack and its consequences.
more on Dark Winter
The threat of an attack has persuaded the Isreali government to proceed with mass vaccination. The United States is considering vaccinating 500,000 members of the military and another 500,000 emergency response workers. But there are risks to being vaccinated.
Should I be vaccinated?
Following inquiries by the fifth estate, the Canadian government has announced that it may proceed to vaccinate 500 Canadians. They are also working on updating a draft of the 1971 “Canadian Smallpox Contingency Plan.”
more on The Plan
Read more about Smallpox:
"The 1971 Smallpox Epidemic in Aralsk, Kazakhstan and the Soviet Biological Warfare Program", produced by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California.
For more information on the history of the Soviet smallpox program, see "SCOURGE: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox" by Jonathan B. Tucker (paperback edition, New York: Grove Press, 2002)