Re: Is there still a chance for us?

Date: Mon Sep 24 2001 - 14:21:23 MDT

Robert writes:
> Re: smallpox
> ...
> Once the outbreak became known we would likely have a tremendous
> hunkering down by people not traveling anywhere near locations
> where there are known outbreaks. The damage to economies might
> be much worse than the damage from the smallpox itself.
> It is also true that one could probably scale up a crash vaccination
> production program if required. You could synthesize the required
> DNA vectors around the world and do bulk fermentation growth in
> wine or beer manufacturing equipment. You might not get the best
> vaccine out of it but something is better than nothing.

Most Americans older than about 30-35 have been vaccinated for
smallpox. It leaves a distinctive circular scar on the upper left arm.
Military personnel were vaccinated up until 1990. Information from The vaccination
was gradually discontinued during the 1970s and ended entirely in
early 1980. So young people have not been vaccinated.

Does anyone know whether the protection from childhood vaccination
would help against the use of smallpox as a terrorist agent? Is there
some technology to mutate the virus so that the vaccines don't work?
The reference above describes "substantial but waning" immunity after
ten years from vaccination.

The article also says that the vaccine can be effective in preventing
or reducing symptoms if administered very shortly after exposure to the
smallpox virus. This is the currently-planned public-health response, to
rush whatever stores of vaccine are available into an exposed population.

I was looking online to see if there was any way to receive
smallpox vaccination, even if it were expensive. Apparently the
vaccine is not available to the public under any circumstances
short of exposure.

The smallpox vaccine is based on the vaccinia virus (which is where
the name "vaccine" comes from), so I don't fully understand why
concerns about smallpox virus availability required withdrawing
the vaccinia-based vaccine. Recently more production was ordered,
but it will supposedly not be available until 2004, according to

One would think that smallpox would not be the biological weapon of choice
against a population where perhaps half the people had been vaccinated
against it. I'd like to get more informed information about our actual
risk against this particular disease.


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