Israel To Decide Soon About Smallpox Vaccinations For Population (CNS-CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE) By Julie Stahl JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 12/23/02)
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Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - With a U.S.-led strike against Iraq looking
more probable, Israel will decide very soon whether or not to
inoculate its entire population against smallpox, health and defense
officials said on Monday.
Intelligence experts believe that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein may
have obtained the deadly virus with the intent of using it as a
They also believe that Israel is a likely target for a retaliatory
attack if the U.S. strikes Iraq. At least 39 Iraqi Scud missiles
slammed into Israel during the first Gulf War in 1991.
According to a CIA document recently released for publication, Saddam
Hussein wanted to use biological weapons against Israel in 1991, but
his plan was thwarted in its early stages, Israel Radio reported on
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said in a radio interview on Monday that
Israel is more prepared than ever for an Iraqi attack but it
must "brace for any development." He added that if U.S. strikes
Iraq "there will be risks for Israel."
Dr. Boaz Lev, Director General of the Ministry of Health, said in a
telephone interview on Monday that a joint decision between Health
Ministry officials and cabinet members would be made "in the near
future" on whether or not to vaccinate the entire population against
The decision will take into consideration things such as the side
effects and alternative programs, Lev said.
Defense Ministry Director General Amos Yaron said earlier in a radio
interview that the decision would be made on whether to wait until
there is an outbreak of the highly contagious disease, which can be
deadly, or to immunize the entire population before the need arises.
He also said there was enough vaccine on hand.
Lev said that personally he favors a gradual immunization program
that ultimately will bring Israel to a state where everyone is
This would take place over several months to a year and create
a "herd immunity" that would prevent epidemics from occurring, Lev
said in a telephone interview.
If there were no need to vaccinate the population, then it is better
not to do so. "If there is a threat, the risk overcomes the side
effects," he said.
No vaccines or immunizations are currently mandatory in Israel and
this one will not be either. But the Ministry of Health will begin a
campaign to explain the benefits of the immunization to the public,
The government decided in August to inoculate emergency service
personnel on the front lines and health ministry workers. Some 15,000
of them have already received the vaccine during the last few months.
Only one case was reported where a spouse became ill after her
husband received the vaccine, Lev said. She was treated and recovered.
In 1978, Israel stopped inoculating children against the virus. A
year later, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox had
Nevertheless, small stocks of the disease were kept in the U.S. and
the former Soviet Union. It has never been clear what happened to the
Soviet stocks after the fall of the Soviet Union. There are fears
that some of that supply may have made its way into Saddam Hussein´s
hands. (copyright 1998-2002 Cybercast News Service. 12/23/02)
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