Smallpox, also referred to as Variola, is a contagious infectious disease caused by viruses. The disease has a typical manifestation accompanied by characteristic changes of the skin. The last official case of the smallpox took place in 1977 in Somalia and in 1980 the WHO was able to declare the world to be free of the smallpox.
In 1975 compulsory vaccination was abolished in Germany and worldwide in 1980. If at all, the vaccination protection applies to people born before 1975 who were still subject to compulsory vaccination. Theoretically it is possible that smallpox viruses could spread again, e.g. in the course of terrorist attacks with biological weapons, if the terrorists got ahold of the viruses. (Literature on the subject of biological weapons)
Officially there are two laboratories where smallpox viruses are stored:
- Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA
- Russian Research Center for Virology and Biotechnology, Novosibirsk, Russia
On November 8, 2001 the Federal Government of Germany declared that approx. 6 million dosages of smallpox vaccine were going to be purchased for approx. 50 million Euros and were going to be stored at a secret location. The Federal Government continues to refrain from recommending general vaccinations. The serum was for emergencies. The Federal Ministry of Health was unwilling to provide any information on where the vaccine originated. In October 2002 an agreement was entered into with Bavarian Nordic, a pharmaceutical company, to increase the stockpile to 35 million. According to information provided by the German Federal Ministry of Health approx. 24 million dosages of the vaccine was available for Germany in 2002. The additional eleven million dosages cost 26.8 million Euro. The plan was to have 66 dosages of the vaccine by late 2003.
Worldwide discussions are ongoing, primarily in the United States, whether everyone should be vaccinated prophylactically or whether people who are exposed during an attack should be vaccinated retroactively. What is not in favor of the vaccination are mainly the strong side effects. US doctors are now warning that if the old smallpox vaccines are used for biological terror attacks people who are not vaccinated could be infected with the vaccinia viruses.
At any rate, in the United States vaccinations have been prophylactically administered to people who work in hospitals, yet there has been considerable resistance towards the vaccinations in many of these hospitals.