Smallpox Eraducation Programme Archive

target zero

DA Henderson

DA Henderson Archive
7 Sep 1928 - 19 Aug 2016

Big Red Book

Click to access individual chapters or full text.

Target Zero: Smallpox Eradication Programme Archive is a comprehensive online research archive of documents and memorabilia concerning the World Health Organization (WHO) Smallpox Eradication Programme (SEP).

I believe that the important, longer-term contribution of smallpox eradication ... was its demonstration of how much could be accomplished with how little in the control of infectious diseases through community-wide vaccination programs.

Smallpox—the Death of a Disease, DA Henderson, Amherst NY: Prometheus Books, 2009, p. 304

The purpose of Smallpox—Target Zero is to document the complexities and problems of the day-to-day management of the many aspects of the program, both in normal and “crisis” situations, in accordance with the recommendation of WHO's Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication (right).

Smallpox eradication presented enormous management and logistical difficulties. A small WHO headquarters unit had to coordinate and motivate WHO regional offices, national ministries, some 850 international workers, and hundreds of thousands of health staff in 40 countries. Difficult field conditions and poor infrastructure were exacerbated by natural disasters, civil war, and refugee migrations. Acquiring and transferring funds and high-quality vaccine were ongoing issues. Communication was limited almost exclusively to regional meetings and the mails.

Nonetheless, in just over 10 years, beginning in January 1967, some 10 million annual smallpox cases, with 2 million deaths, were reduced to zero. A person-to-person chain of transmission that had endured for thousands of years was broken.

Field workers developed their own innovative solutions; headquarters staff coordinated the massive effort at a distance. And a remarkable esprit de corps developed that persists to this day. This site is a tribute to all those who contributed to the success of the program.

World Health Organization

WHO's Global Commission for the Certification of Smallpox Eradication, in its Final Report, stated that:

"The eradication of smallpox is a unique event in human history and a signal achievement of WHO."

The Commission issued the following recommendation:

"Recommendation (17). All relevant scientific, operational and administrative data should be cataloged and retained for archival purposes in WHO headquarters and perhaps also in several centres interested in the history of medicine."

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