Russia comes out for intensifying struggle against threat of bioterrorism
At the 55th session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva Russia comes out for stepping up the struggle against the threat of bioterrorism. As Minister of Health of Russia and head of the Russian delegation Yuri Shevchenko stated, this concerns intensification of scientific-research work to obtain a new smallpox vaccine on the basis of the collections of wild strains of this most dangerous disease existing in Russia and the USA. Shevchenko said that during his meeting with head of the American delegation Tommy Thompson main attention had been paid to the "questions of joint resolution" of the pressing problems of countering bioterrorism and ensuring biosecurity. According to him, "for twenty years we have not been vaccinating the population, while smallpox it is not anthrax from the standpoint of the danger it breeds." If the smallpox virus is used as a biological weapon the world's population will be incapable of resisting this disease. As Shevchenko stressed, it is necessary not only to start vaccinating as soon as possible the people of the "high-risk group", livestock-farmers and workers of the biotechnological sphere in particular, but "to think of all people in general". He noted, however, that the inoculation of the population against smallpox will be resumed provided a new safe vaccine is obtained. A working meeting between the head of the Russian delegation and Director-General of the World Health Organisation /WHO/ Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland /Norway/ was held the day before, and on that same day the Minister made a speech at the general plenary meeting of the 55th session of the General Assembly. Shevchenko spoke highly of the level of cooperation between WHO and Russia and backed the guidelines of this organisation's activity. He presented to Brundtland the medal of the Russian Federation For Services to National Health Care which had been awarded to her for her contribution to the improvement of mankind's health and the development of the humanistic principles underlying the medical profession. The delegations of 191 countries, representatives of the UN specialised agencies and institutions, and observers from different international and non-governmental organisations are taking part in the work of the current session of the World Health Assembly. Its work will last till May 18th.