Feature

The Vaccinia Dilemma

Smallpox shot poses modest danger, uncertain benefit

By
6:12pm, March 31, 2003

Consider two troubling scenarios. First, imagine that the government's current smallpox vaccination campaign peters out before even a million people are vaccinated. Then, a month or perhaps a decade from now, terrorists cause simultaneous smallpox outbreaks in several cities. Within days, cases of the once-eradicated disease pop up across the country and around the world. The epidemic burns for months and leaves many thousands dead before it's extinguished.

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