Destruction time for smallpox stores still unknown

This year marks the 30 year anniversary of smallpox being declared eradicated, however, WHO officials are still attempting to pinpoint a destruction time for smallpox stores.

In 2006,  reports, the WHO set a destruction deadline for June 30, 2010. However, in 2007, the organization delayed and set another deadline for 2011.

The United States and Russia, the only known countries that possess smallpox stores, have not complied with the mandate. Both countries have asked for more time, arguing there is more research on smallpox to be carried out.

Dr. Donald A. Henderson, who directed the WHO’s smallpox eradication campaign from 1966 to 1977, told that other countries view this refusal as a patronizing display of arrogance.

“Here we are, it's Big Brother Russia and Big Brother United States telling us what to do,” Henderson told

Henderson, who now serves as a scholar at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh, disagrees with this notion.

“We were the ones who really suffered for this disease and worked to get rid of it,” Henderson said.

American and Russian labs came to possess smallpox stores in the late 1960’s, volunteering to help with the process of diagnosing the often fatal disease. In 2005, however, many became alarmed when the U.S. announced that they intended to genetically engineer and further experiment with the smallpox virus.

Since that time, many advocates against the misuse of biotechnology have argued that the stores should be destroyed. One such group, the Sunshine Project, concluded in 2007 that vaccines and diagnostic tests are effective enough to merit halting research on smallpox.

Dr. Donald Henderson, the Sunshine Project's director, told that the continued refusal by the U.S. to destroy the contagious virus as a matter of national security sends other countries the message that they must obtain it for their security, too.

The United States stopped vaccinating against smallpox in 1972.