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POLIOVIRUS/Destruction of Variola Stocks a Mistake?

Freistadt, Marion mfreis at lsumc.edu
Thu May 22 13:47:09 EST 1997

Ordinarily, I wouldn't step into the fray, but the contents of these
previous messages are truly egregious.  

(1) The forum at 1996 ASV was for scientists. The forum was an information
and discussion section, no more or less than that.  (2) The criteria that
are used to monitor eradication are highly specific and quantitative. 
THese are procedures designed and carried out by CDC scientists along with
the WHO, in conjunction with local health officials, around the world. 
These methods have been developed and used over many years in many
countries.  They are widely accepted by the virological community and are a
highly reliable measure of local eradication of wild type poliovirus. (3) 
A timetable was set for global eradication, which has not been achieved. 
HOwever, it will achieved fairly soon after the original target date. (4)
Financial conerns are certainly relevant when making public health
decisions, ie, WHEN TO STOP VACCINATING.  (5) Thoughtful decisions need to
be made (by a combination of policy makers and scientists) about the timing
of stopping vaccination and subsequent possible destruction of laboratory
viruses.  THAT IS WHY scientists are discussing these matters in a somewhat
public format.
>>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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