Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Smallpox and Influenza

Smallpox - where did the money go?

I googled on "smallpox and influenza" and came up with this 2003 article. It's a good starting point for a question that no-one ever asks (except, every few months, me). Maybe, given the influenza debacle of 2004, this might come up again.

In the build-up to the Iraq invasion there was much mention of the Iraqi smallpox program, and the evil and nefarious "Dr. Germ" (who is, by most accounts, a pretty nasty woman). There was a heck of a lot of press on this. The usual suspects (Rumsfeld, Condy, Cheney, Bush) raised the specter of bioterrorism and a smallpox attack. They made a persuasive case. Persuaded me anyway!

A big prevention program started up. Physicians and nurses were immunized. Some had nasty side-effects. I think at least one person died from an idiosyncratic reaction to Vaccinia (an odd virus that acts in some people like a "mild" case of smallpox).

Then came the invasion of Iraq. The immunization program was quietly dropped. (Later data suggests Americans are probably still protected by the immunizations of the 1960s -- but that wasn't known when the program was dropped.) It staggers on with a low level of funding and no political support.

So was the program always a fraud to provide support for the invasion? If so, that was one hell of a game to play. I suspect the persons injured in the vaccine testing might not feel happy about that.

Or was the fear genuine, but the Bush administration decided that meeting the challenge could pose an electoral risk -- so they decided to ignore the problem? That doesn't reflect well on them either. I wonder if that's the same kind of reasoning they applied when they were warned about the influenza vaccine problems.

It was when I realized that there was no good answer to the smallpox scam that I recognized what kind of government we had. Until then I was willing to give Bush a bit of trust.

Maybe they just figured that the power of their Will would defeat nature. Just like in that movie.

PS. I suspect Dr. Germ will only be released after the election is done. If she were released before November 2nd, she might stir some unwanted memories.

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