Smallpox was declared eradicated, yet still infects humans today. By Viera Scheibner, PhD

In 1967, the World Health Organization(WHO) initiated a world-wide eradication campaign against smallpox. In that year, some 131,000 cases of smallpox were reported to WHO from 42 countries. It was understood that this number could have represented only some 5% of the total number of cases. What was the possible motivation for such an ambitious program?

Side effects and ineffectiveness of smallpox vaccination have been the main smallpox issue discussed in medical papers for a long time. In 1928, the British Medical Journal (14 January:74) published an article by Garrow showing that the fatality rate among the vaccinated cases of smallpox in England and Wales in 1923 and 1926, in those over 15 years of age, was higher than among the unvaccinated. This stirred a lively discussion, published on 21 January 1928 (BMJ; 115-116). Among the comments are those of Percy Stocks, who considered waning vaccine immunity the reason for increased mortality among those of 15 years of age. He tried to imply that although dying within 2 months of contracting smallpox, victims could have died of other causes.

Others, such as Wynne, also tried to explain the five-fold higher smallpox mortality rate in the over 15 year old vaccinees during 1923 and 1926 smallpox epidemics by waning immunity. However, he scalded Garrow for broadcasting in the medical press an assertion “…which he must be aware will be quoted, on his authority and without context, by the antivaccinationist press. This kind of action can do nothing but handicap his colleagues who are engaged in combating the present epidemic of small-pox, with its serious burden on the public funds, the loss of wages involved, and the damage to industry quite apart from the detriment to public health, which in my opinion recent experience is becoming more serious as the infection is passed through the human medium.”

So, the main concern not to embarrass the medical profession while showing a complete lack of concern about the blindness to the truth, and to the obvious (a forgotten word in medicine), on the part of the medical profession, was rife already then.

Millard reasoned that although the mortality rate in those vaccinated is five times that of the unvaccinated, the case mortality is so trifle in either group that it at once arouses suspicion of a “catch somewhere.” The “catch” is that, “under the term ”small-pox” we are including two varieties of the disease so utterly different as regards their mortality that, as for statistical purposes, they are two distinct diseases, and it is most misleading to include them together under the same heading…there should be little practical difficulty in keeping the statistics for the two varieties separate, because I doubt if there has been a single outbreak of small-pox, say in the past ten years, where there was any doubt as to which variety of small-pox was being dealt with.”

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