Recall that in 2002, there was a lot of loose talk and innuendo about "some kind" of smallpox attack "somewhere." At the time, it didn't seem so implausable. After all, Congress was paralysed after receiving several letters containing weapons-grade anthrax (mmm, I wonder what happened to that story...). It was during this period that the Administration pushed for a massive smallpox vaccination program for all public health workers. That was to make us safe, I assume. However, that effort was doomed from the start, since the vaccination must be used within 90 days of manufacture and no one was in the business of mass producing the medicine on the scale required. So we all thought clean thoughts and hoped for the best.
Apparently, that was the right thing to do.
In a quote pulled from the article on boston.com: With demand lacking, smallpox vaccine expiring one Boston doctor explains the problem.
«"The war came, the war left, things happened, and we weren't using vaccine as quickly as we had hoped to use it," said Dr. Alfred DeMaria, the Massachusetts director of communicable disease control. "And that's when we got to the 90-day expiration, and we had to throw it away."»
Fear is a very powerful motivator. It frequently trumps solid reasoning. Much of the Bush Administration's reactions to 9-11 have struck me as a panicked and startled (that is, they appear that way when I'm not leaning toward a more conspiratorial world-view). Even with the most open and forthcoming of Administrations (in which camp the Bush folks decidedly do not fall), it is very hard to evaluate protective measures. How can we evaluate the effectiveness of the PATRIOT act in preventing Terrorism or other crimes? There's no control group we can look to that shows us what might have been.
Attorney General Ashcroft is seeking support for a bill that grants even more sweeping powers to law enforcement. It's call the VICTORY act and among other powers, federal investigators would be able to get business records without a court order (recall that in the wake a 9-11, the feds canvassed many businesses, including SCUBA shops, asking for the records of customers. One SCUBA shop refused the request and was harassed for it). More frightening is that VICTORY would also allow the feds to track wireless communications without a warrant. Vermont's Bernie Sanders is also concerned about this issue.
Perhaps my distrust of this Administration would fade if it ceased borrowing terminology from Orwell's 1984.