§ Lord Kennet
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have taken any action in response to the maintenance by the United States of the smallpox virus and its decision in 1997 to devote $322 million to make new vaccines for the military; and whether they have studied the implications for world health of other countries, such as Israel, maintaining variola stocks. [HL3380]
§ Baroness Hayman
The United Kingdom has followed closely the scientific debate on smallpox in recent years. Along with the United States and other like-minded countries, we have concluded that stocks of variola virus held under the auspices of the World Health Organisation in the US and Russia should be retained to permit further work that will help protect mankind should smallpox ever again pose a threat to public health. The United Kingdom is unaware of any stocks of the virus located in other countries.
The decision to retain variola virus stocks was shared by WHO member states at the World Health Assembly in May, where a resolution was passed to authorise temporary retention of stocks, until at least 2002. This delay is for the purpose of further international research into antiviral agents and improved vaccines, and to permit high priority investigations of the genetic: structure and pathogenesis of smallpox.
Her Majesty's Government also maintain close links with the US on all aspects of chemical and biological defence. Discussions are well advanced on our participation in the US defence vaccine acquisition programme, under the auspices of a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding on chemical and biological defence between the UK, the US and Canada.