Destroying smallpox stocks

Smallpox has killed countless people over the last 12,000 years. It is difficult now to understand the terror that smallpox evoked in a pre-vaccination era. When smallpox was introduced into new populations the death rates sometimes could even exceed 90%, as was the case with the Mandans in the 1837 Great Plains Epidemic. The virus was finally wiped out in the wild through a massive vaccination program in the 1970s. The last infection took place in 1977. Now what should be done with the remaining stocks of the virus in Russia and the United States? I recommend a video by Errol Morris on the New York Times website “The Demon in the Freezer,” which examines this issue in detail. The interview with the Russian bioweapons scientist is particularly chilling. What I liked about the video was that it showcased voices from both sides of the debate.

Shawn Smallman, 2016

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