View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 22, 1999


President Clinton has decided to seek a delay in the destruction of the declared stocks of smallpox virus. The two known supplies are currently housed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and in Koltsovo, Russia. The debate on this issue will take place in Geneva at the World Health Assembly, beginning May 17.

The President's decision is based on a consensus recommendation of his advisors, reflecting agreement among all Departments. Two recent independent reports from The Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences concluded that smallpox virus would be essential to the development of new antiviral drugs against smallpox and novel vaccines that could be used in those with AIDS or those whose immune systems are not working well. The results of these reports had a significant impact on our decision-making process.

The decision also reflects our concern that we cannot be entirely certain that after we destroy the declared stocks in Atlanta and Koltsovo, we will eliminate all the smallpox virus in existence. While we fervently hope smallpox would never be used as a weapon, we have a responsibility to develop the drug and vaccine tools to deal with any future contingency -- a research and development process that would necessarily require smallpox virus.

In the end, we reached the conclusion we believe is most likely to reduce the possibility of future loss of life as a result of smallpox.

# # #