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Volume 984: debated on Thursday 8 May 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what are the implications for the United Kingdom of the eradication from the world of smallpox: and if he will make a statement.

The World Health Assembly today agreed a resolution confirming that smallpox has finally been eradicated from the world. This historic event is the culmination of a long and intensive campaign by the World Health Organisation and its success marks a landmark for mankind.Many countries have contributed to the success of the campaign, not least the United Kingdom. Edward Jenner was the first to demonstrate the value of vaccination to the world and this was the first country in which vaccination against smallpox was made available free. It was also the first country which, in the light of the early success of the WHO eradication campaign, ceased recommending routine vaccination against the disease.Sir George Godber, formerly a chief medical officer in the Department, was one of the most influential people in supporting the WHO campaign and a former principal medical officer, Dr. William Bradley, devised in this country the methods which led to the eradication of the disease here. It was only with the application of these methods in parts of the world where the disease was endemic that eradication became feasible and was achieved.

Professor Dumbell of St. Mary's Hospital Medical School and the late Professor Bedson of the Birmingham Medical School were leading advisers to the WHO and Professor Dumbell has been a member of the Global Commission for the Declaration of Smallpox Eradication, the WHO body mainly responsible for the work of the last few years. Several United Kingdom doctors have recently assisted the WHO as members of International Commissions certifying the freedom from smallpox of countries in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere, among them one of the present members of the medical staff of the Department.

The United Kingdom has also made special contributions to help finance the eradication programme and has also provided supplies of vaccine. It should not be forgotten, however, that it is not only the countries which formerly suffered from endemic smallpox which have benefited from the success of the campaign. The benefits to the developed countries are also considerable.

The World Health Assembly resolution to which I referred above makes a number of recommendations on vaccination policy and other matters relating to the control and surveillance of smallpox. It will now be possible to modify the guidance given by the Department to health and local authorities on these and other aspects of smallpox control, including the hospital requirements for accommodating patients with suspected smallpox. Work on this is well advanced and guidance should be issued shortly.