There's something fishy about the government's huge smallpox antiviral buy of Arestvyr
In a country 11 years removed from the last major terrorists attack that is working through economic problems, why would a virus that has been eradicated in the wild for over 30 years prompt the government to spend nearly half a billion dollars to acquire enough antiviral to treat two million people? It’s a question that many are asking. The answers all sound pretty fishy.
The smallpox virus once terrified the majority of the world. With a death rate of 1 in 3, it’s over thirty times more deadly than the worst forms of flu. Even today, it strikes fear into those who remember the 1940s and 1950s when smallpox vaccination lines would extend several city blocks.
It’s the deadliness of the virus that is being used as the reason that the US government just gave Siga Technologies $463 million for Arestvyr, over $200 per course of treatment. When lives are at stake, it’s a low cost. The problem with the government’s story is that lives aren’t at stake. The chances of needing the level of preparedness the government has taken to thwart a biological attack are exceptionally small.
Or are they?
Here’s what we know about the deal:
Since 1980, the remnants of the virus are stored in government labs in the United States and Russia.
The United States has enough smallpox vaccine to give to the entire population.
The vaccine is administered by forked pin, can be administered by anyone with 10 minutes of training, and it’s estimated that the entire country could be vaccinated in 3 days.
The virus can take two weeks for an infected person to become seriously ill. Because of this, the vaccine works up to three days after infection.
Smallpox does not become infectious until the pox start erupting, over two weeks after infection and at a point when the infected are too sick to wander.
The antiviral costs at most around $10 per course to produce.
In short, we paid too much to get treatments for a virus that barely exists anymore and that can be easily re-eradicated by vaccines that we already have.
Or did we?
As conspiracy theories go, here are some that each make a lot more sense than what the government is telling us.