Essay on Worldwide Smallpox Eradication

Essay on Worldwide Smallpox Eradication

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Although previously represented as an achievement crafted primarily by the actions the World Health Organization (WHO) and a small group of other key players, recent interpretations of the eradication of smallpox are dealing with this international cooperation and its players from different angle. Current historians are examining this achievement as one shaped not only by the mutual understanding for the need to end smallpox but also by international and local sociopolitical forces.
In his 1993 article, “Smallpox: Emergence, Global Spread and Eradication, “ Frank Fenner, a noted virologist and the Chairman of the Global Commission for Certification of Smallpox Eradication, explains the history and eventual destruction of the disease through the eyes of a scientist. For Fenner, the end of the disease lie in the creation of the Smallpox Eradication Programme (SEP), coordinated by WHO in Geneva Switzerland. Fenner acknowledges that countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas had been able to achieve country-wide elimination between 1959 and 1966, however, with a suggested eradication time frame of four to five years, WHO felt this pace would not suffice.
Subsequently, WHO created the SEP which focused primarily on those countries where endemic smallpox still existed: the Indian Subcontinent, the Horn of Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia and Brazil. Fenner provides further biological and sociopolitical factors that he found played a role: the nature of the disease itself, advancement of strategies (improved vaccine quality and distribution), “earlier countrywide elimination in Europe and North America…no social or religious barriers to the recognition of cases...The costs of quarantine and the compulsory vaccination of intern...


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...countries. On the other hand, Hochman states that smallpox in Brazil, although still acknowledged, became a low priority for the government after 1920. It was not until international political alignments within South America and as the United States’ involvment changed in the early 1960 that the country became part of WHO’s Intensified Smallpox Eradication Programme



Works Cited

Frank Fenner, “Smallpox: Emergence, Global Spread, and Eradication,” History and Philosophy of Life Sciences 15, no. 3 (1993), 410.
Sanjoy Bhattacharya, “Struggling to a monumental triumph: re-assessing the final phases of the smallpox eradication program in India, 1960-1980, História, Ciências Saúde – Manguinhos 14, no.4 (2007), 1113
Gilberto Hochman, “Priority, Invisibility and Eradication: The History of Smallpox and the Brazilian Public Health Agenda,” Medical History 53 (2009), 230.

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