UK pledges smallpox vaccine for global use

The UK government has pledged to contribute four million doses of smallpox vaccine to a new global stockpile being assembled by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The vaccine shots will form part of the international response to an outbreak of the disease in a country which does not have its own or sufficient countermeasures.

According to the government, the UK has sufficient stocks of smallpox vaccine to cover every conceivable scenario. The pledge of four million doses to the WHO will not compromise the UK's ability to respond to an outbreak here. It supplements the £1 million the UK donated to the WHO for this activity in 1993.

Mr Reid said: "Unfortunately, many recent events have shown that terrorism does not recognise international boundaries. The deliberate release of smallpox is one terrorist threat that could have global implications. The UK is seen to encourage an international response to such threats, which is why we are backing the WHO's initiative to expand its global stockpile of vaccine.

"I should stress that we are in a position to make this pledge without compromising in any way our own capability and preparedness to deal with any UK-based smallpox outbreak, should that occur."

The four million UK doses of vaccine will remain in the UK for use abroad if WHO officials request this step. In such circumstances, the UK would still have sufficient stocks to deal with any outbreak were it to affect the UK.

Mr Reid added: "This is a sensible precautionary measure for the international community to take. However it does not indicate an increased level of threat of such an attack."

The announcement was made at the fifth ministerial meeting of the Global Health Security Initiative in Paris, attended by the health ministers from the organisation's member states - the UK, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the United States, and the European Commission and the Would Health Organisation.


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