perhaps most relevant to this project—safety. The IOM operates by convening ad hoc committees of the nation’s experts, invoking policies and procedures developed over many years to ensure the advice is free from sponsor or other interested-party influence, unbiased with respect to the questions at hand, and based on evidence.
The last case of smallpox in the United States occurred in 1949. General vaccination against smallpox—accomplished with cutaneous administration of a closely related virus, vaccinia virus—ceased in the United States in 1972, when the threat of smallpox disease disappeared due to eradication efforts, which were declared complete by the World Health Organization on May 8, 1980. Only two official stocks of smallpox (variola) virus remained—under the auspices of the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union. It has often been rumored and suggested that some of the virus possessed by the Soviet Union could have been given illegally to people attempting to use the virus as a biological weapon, though factual evidence to support this concern has not been made public. The events of September and October 2001 increased U.S. concerns about all types of possible terrorism, including the potential for biological terrorism. Thus, attention turned to considerations of initiating vaccination against smallpox. CDC has been concurrently developing “post-event” vaccination plans (mass vaccinations after a smallpox release) and—the focus of this committee—“pre-event” plans (precautionary vaccination of smallpox response teams, first responders, and the general public).
On December 13, 2002, President Bush announced his policy on pre-event vaccination against smallpox (White House, 2002). Vaccination of select military personnel, including the president in his role as Commander-in-Chief, began immediately thereafter. At the time of this writing, voluntary vaccination of state-based teams of public health disease investigators and of hospital-based teams of health care workers (who would respond to the first case of smallpox, should it ever appear) is scheduled to begin in late January 2003. The president has asked that this round of vaccinations be completed as quickly as possible and that a broader vaccination effort commence thereafter. As currently understood, the subsequent vaccinations will encompass the voluntary vaccination of all health care workers and those commonly defined as first responders, such as firefighters, police, and emergency medical personnel. Vaccination of the general public is specifically not recommended, but the president also announced the intent to provide vaccinations to those members of the public who request the intervention. The IOM’s Committee on Smallpox Vaccination Program Implementation met for the first time December 18-20, 2002, to begin addressing their charge, stated most succinctly as providing advice on how best to implement the policy as announced by President Bush.
The committee has not been asked to, and will not, comment on the