The smallpox vaccine is back in the news this week, with plans to inoculate all careworkers in case of a bioterrorist attack.
Although it’s unlikely to be as deadly as anything Osama may be planning for us, the vaccine still raises worries that tend to get swept aside ‘in times of war’.
It’s a live virus, which causes mild infections in most people, although it has been linked to serious reactions such as skin disorders, blindness, neurological problems, and even death.
The vaccines about to be distributed in the West have not yet been licensed, which suggests they are being rushed through the regulatory processes, and so the usual safety tests may have been cut short.
We don’t know how real is the threat of a bioterrorist attack in the UK, but we do know about the risks linked to the vaccine. We hope our leaders have weighed it all up properly because there are bound to be those who react badly to the new vaccines. We hope it will be for a real, and necessary, reason.