UN puts off destroying last smallpox viruses

May 25, 2011

Health ministers from around the world agreed Tuesday to put off setting a deadline to destroy the last known stockpiles of the smallpox virus for three more years, rejecting a U.S. plan that had called for a five-year delay.

After two days of heated debate, the 193-nation World Health Assembly agreed by consensus to a compromise that calls for another review in 2014.

The United States had proposed a five-year extension to destroying the U.S. and Russian stockpiles, arguing that more research is needed and the stockpiles could help prevent one of the world's deadliest diseases from being used as a biological weapon.

But opponents at the decision-making assembly of the said they saw little reason to retain the stockpiles, and objected to the delay in destroying them.

Dr. Nils Daulaire, head of the U.S. Office of Global and the chief American delegate to the assembly, expressed some disappointment but said the compromise was satisfactory.

"We were disappointed that despite the fact that we had extremely strong support for a resolution that would have even more strongly endorsed the program of research and that a majority of that support came from the global south, that Iran almost unilaterally blocked that," he said. "We could have won a vote if we had chosen to go that route, but it was not the way we view the well-being of both WHO processes and ."

The assembly, like the U.N. General Assembly, is a world forum whose decisions aren't legally binding. It declared officially eradicated in 1980, and the U.N. health agency has been discussing whether to destroy the virus since 1986.

Then in 2007, the health assembly asked WHO's director-general to oversee a major review of the situation so that the 2011 assembly could agree on when to destroy the last known stockpiles.

Daulaire said the U.S. would act in accordance with the decisions made by the assembly.

"We're very committed to consensus decisions at WHO," he said. "We believe even more strongly that WHO is a very important institution and that it has moral force and that maintaining consensus and acting on the basis of that consensus is critical for global public health."

WHO officials said in a statement that the assembly "strongly reaffirmed the decision of previous assemblies that the remaining stock of smallpox (variola) virus should be destroyed when crucial research based on the virus has been completed."

shares

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Past encounters with the flu shape vaccine response

February 20, 2018
New research on why the influenza vaccine was only modestly effective in recent years shows that immune history with the flu influences a person's response to the vaccine.

Building better tiny kidneys to test drugs and help people avoid dialysis

February 16, 2018
A free online kidney atlas built by USC researchers empowers stem cell scientists everywhere to generate more human-like tiny kidneys for testing new drugs and creating renal replacement therapies.

Study suggests expanded range for emerging tick-borne disease

February 16, 2018
Human cases of Borrelia miyamotoi, a tick-borne infection with some similarities to Lyme disease, were discovered in the eastern United States less than a decade ago. Now new research led by the Yale School of Public Health ...

Expanding Hepatitis C testing to all adults is cost-effective and improves outcomes

February 16, 2018
According to a new study, screening all adults for hepatitis C (HCV) is a cost-effective way to improve clinical outcomes of HCV and identify more infected people compared to current recommendations. Using a simulation model, ...

Flu shot only 36 percent effective, making bad year worse (Update)

February 15, 2018
The flu vaccine is doing a poor job protecting older Americans and others against the bug that's causing most illnesses.

IFN-mediated immunity to influenza A virus infection influenced by RIPK3 protein

February 15, 2018
Each year, influenza kills half a million people globally with the elderly and very young most often the victims. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 37 children have died in the United States ...

8 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

frajo
2 / 5 (2) May 25, 2011
more research is needed and the stockpiles could help prevent one of the world's deadliest diseases from being used as a biological weapon.
Some governments have shown and still show their disdain for international law. These countries are not trustworthy. Their "We need this weapon to prevent its use" is nothing but a concealed threat to use the weapon against the rest of the world.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) May 25, 2011
Frajo, it was shown that destroying smallpox won't stop small pox.

A geneticist could perform some basic manipulation of the chicken or monkey pox virii and create small pox anew while we'd have no information or manner by which to manufacture a vaccine.

Destroying the last small pox virii won't ensure any safety from small pox.
Beat_Maker_Software
not rated yet May 25, 2011
I agree with this sentence "Destroying the last small pox virii won't ensure any safety from small pox."
Na_Reth
not rated yet May 25, 2011
Frajo, it was shown that destroying smallpox won't stop small pox.

A geneticist could perform some basic manipulation of the chicken or monkey pox virii and create small pox anew while we'd have no information or manner by which to manufacture a vaccine.

Destroying the last small pox virii won't ensure any safety from small pox.

But it might ensure the abuse of the stored smallpox.
Meaning it would lower the amount of people able to abuse this virus.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) May 25, 2011
But it might ensure the abuse of the stored smallpox.
Meaning it would lower the amount of people able to abuse this virus.
It would also drastically limit our ability to react to the abuse of the virus.
Na_Reth
not rated yet May 25, 2011
Why is that? We have the know-how to make a vaccine right? And if anyone would abuse this virus i would expect them to use a mutated kind. Also the virus is in the infected human itself, why would we need it stored somewhere? We don't.
jjoensuu
not rated yet May 25, 2011
I guess it will be useful for population reduction?
scidog
not rated yet May 26, 2011
note it said "known" stock of virus.who really knows whether or not a sample is held in private or by a rogue state like North Korea.holding a sample for study is a smart idea.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.