Interesting article that mentions that since there are 2 antivirals developed there is no reason to keep smallpox reserves.
Title: TWN Briefing Note on Smallpox for WHO Executive Board (January 2013)
Publication date: January 25, 2013
Posting date: January 25, 2013
THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
Dear friends and colleagues
Re: TWN briefing note on smallpox for WHO Executive Board (January 2013)
Please find below a Third World Network briefing note on the issue of destruction of variola virus (smallpox) stocks. The Executive Board of the World Health Assembly, which is meeting in Geneva (21-29 January 2013), will consider the progress report on this issue.
After contentious discussions at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2011, with no agreement reached on setting a new date for destruction of the remaining live variola stocks held in WHO repositories in the US and Russia, the compromise was to postpone the decision until the 67th WHA in 2014. This despite a major health review from a public health perspective finding that there is no essential public health purpose remaining for retention of the virus. Further retention increases biosafety risks, including that of accidental escape from the laboratory.
The briefing note highlights the progress made in antivirals licensure, which should end any further justification for retention of variola virus stocks. It also raises concerns about approval of unnecessary, non-essential research projects involving live variola virus and the stagnation of efforts to improve the oversight of research. Previously, the WHA had to step in to stop experiments on genetic engineering of the variola virus.
It would be important to begin the process of preparation for fixing a destruction date now, in order to adopt a resolution to that effect at the 67th WHA.
Thus, at the 132nd Executive Board Meeting, Member States may wish to:
• Note that the progress towards licensure of antiviral drugs may shortly bring to an end any arguably essential public health purpose for retention of variola virus stocks, drawing further importance to reaching agreement on a prompt destruction date at the 67th WHA.
• Underscore the importance of the AGIES, whose mandate has been continued by the Director-General following the 64th WHA, and conclusions of the AGIES in the major review (WHO/HSE/GAR/BDP/2010.4).
• Express concern over ACVVR’s approval of new research projects on elements of the WHA-authorized research program (e.g. diagnostics) whose goals have already been satisfied. Such unnecessary, non-essential projects cannot be permitted to interfere with a consensus to fix a date for virus destruction.
• Express concern about the stagnation of efforts to improve the transparency of the ACVVR, in particular the prompt reporting of its and its scientific subcommittee’s decisions, and to emphasize the committee’s openness in the interim before the 67th WHA.
Justification for the retention of smallpox virus stocks at WHO Repositories in the United States and Russia is thinner than ever before. In theory, the United States, Russia, and allies have never left the WHA’s consensus that the virus stocks will be destroyed. Officially, they are only in disagreement about fixing a destruction date. This prevarication has now spanned decades. With the imminent exhaustion of any plausible WHA-authorized reason for retention of virus stocks, it is important to begin the process of preparation for fixing a destruction date now, in order to adopt a resolution to that effect at the 67th WHA.