Sweden to increase supplies of smallpox vaccine

Monday, October 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ Against a backdrop of worsening fears of bioterrorism, Sweden will build up its supplies of smallpox vaccine, a health official said Monday.

The Scandinavian nation of some 9 million people has enough smallpox vaccine to counter a small outbreak, but it will take about six months to build up a stockpile that can counter a massive threat, Peet Tuell of the National Board of Health and Welfare said.

Tuell, who heads the infections disease control department, said the doses would be bought from ``a foreign supplier.'' He refused to give details about the number of available doses or how many would be acquired.

``We don't think that there is an immediate threatening picture against Sweden, and we hope it will never be necessary to use these supplies,'' Tuell said.

The decision to build up the supplies coincided with warnings from the World Health Organization about the risks of smallpox being used as a weapon of terror in the wake of recent anthrax cases.

Tuell said the use of smallpox as a weapon would be tantamount to ``a war against humanity'' and the availability of vaccines was an important weapon.

``If all countries had had stocks of smallpox, it would not be interesting to use the disease for terror,'' he said.

No cases have been detected, but a smallpox epidemic would be much worse than an anthrax outbreak, because the disease is contagious and more deadly than anthrax.

Roughly 30 percent of those who contract smallpox die and a major part of the world population lacks protection from the disease because it has been regarded as eradicated since the end of the 1970s.