Saturday, October 11, 2008

Valid Security Concerns (by Phila)

Apparently, US export regulations forbid the shipment of vaccines to countries that are designated as "state sponsors of terrorism."
Under this little-known policy, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Syria and Sudan may not get the vaccines unless they apply for special export licenses, which would be given or refused according to the discretion and timing of the U.S. Three of those nations — Iran, Cuba and Sudan — also are subject to a ban on all human pandemic influenza vaccines as part of a general U.S. embargo....

Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they were not even aware of the policies until contacted by The Associated Press last month and privately expressed alarm.
Christopher Wall of the US Commerce Department explains that "valid security concerns" necessitate keeping avian flu vaccines out of the wrong hands. The fear seems to be that state-sponsored evildoers will reverse-engineer a bioweapon from the vaccine.

Pretending for a moment that this is within their power, it sounds like an awful lot of work for a weapon that might well cause higher mortality in the originating nation than in the United States or Europe. In any case, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan already have access to naturally occurring H5N1; their highly trained teams of evil geniuses would presumably find it easier to make a bioweapon from the live virus than from a vaccine.

You'd also think that vaccinating people in other countries would be in our best interests. But perhaps the oceans started protecting us again, at some point after the 2001 anthrax attack.