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Destruction of Variola Stocks a Mistake?

David Shivak shivakd at fhs.csu.McMaster.CA
Wed May 21 10:51:40 EST 1997

On 19 May 1997, Megan wrote:

> WHO also plans to destroy all poliovirus stocks, I believe, in 2005 or 2007,
> I dont remember which.  The stupidity of this move is highlighted by the
> fact that polioirus is still found in third world countries, and so people
> from first world, industrialized countries as well as third world countries
> are at risk for spread of this virus, particularly so since we have
> apparently stopped innoculating children against polio (this I am not
> positive about - a rumor?).  Destroying the stocks are not going to make
> natural populations go away, they will only impair our ability to deal with
> them when they arise.
> Megan Igo

At the 1996 ASV meeting there was a seminar on this topic.  I believe 
they planned to stop innoculating 2-3 years after they find no more 
natural resevoirs of polio.  The most worrisome aspect was the 
salesmanlike way it was presented to fellow scientists without 
quantitative data... they "destroyed" "eradicated" or "wiped out" polio 
without stating what criteria they used for ensuring there were no 
cases.  Some mention was made of PCRing toilet waste in the future, I 
believe, but it didn't go into a lot of detail.  I have a hard time 
believing that this is a good measure of polio eradication.   The 
financial part of the talk was quite ridiculous, talking about how much 
money could be saved by eliminating vaccination.  Numbers were tossed 
about without any context (millions and millions of dollars etc., rather 
than % of GNP) and nary a thought was given to the potential costs if 
PCRing toilets isn't such a great method of testing after all.  All in  
all, it sounded more as if the people involved were trying to justify 
their budget to laymen than convince other scientists that their plan 
was feasible and cautious.  

Dave Shivak

David Shivak - shivakd at fhs.mcmaster.ca * Check out Careers In (and Out) of
Science @ http://www.freenet.hamilton.on.ca/~ae047/employ7.html
"He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of 
cucumbers, which were to be put in vials hermetically sealed, and let out 
to warm the air in raw inclement summers." - Jonathan Swift, _Gulliver's 
Travels_, Ch. 5.

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