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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 16:14 GMT
Bush requests BBC smallpox drama
A scene from the BBC drama Smallpox 2002
The drama followed a fictional global epidemic
US President George Bush has requested a copy of BBC Two's Smallpox 2002 programme after a leading scientist told him about the making of the drama.

Dr DA Henderson worked closely with programme makers to create a drama-documentary about the effects of a bioterrorist attack on the world.

Dr Henderson was aboard Bush's Air Force One plane on Tuesday to help promote the president's renewed stance against bioterrorism.

Bush
Bush wants to ensure the US has enough vaccines for 20 million people
Mr Bush is hoping to persuade Congress to devote $6bn (4.2bn) to prepare defences against possible biological warfare, including vaccines for up to 20 million people.

The scientist, who was a key advisor on the drama which was broadcast on Tuesday night, chatted to Mr Bush about the making of Smallpox 2002 - Silent Weapon.

Mr Bush said he was extremely interested in the project and would be keen to watch it himself.

Vaccine programme

The BBC is hurriedly ensuring a copy reaches him as soon as possible.

A BBC spokesman said: "Dr DA Henderson was on Air Force One, heading the launch of the billion dollar US vaccine programme when he happened to mention about Smallpox 2002.

"President Bush said he would like to see it for himself."

In the UK the show has been hailed a ratings success after 3.4 million viewers tuned in.

A spokesman for the programme said the team were delighted the drama had reached such a wide audience for BBC Two.

Fact and fiction were deliberately blurred during the 90 minute broadcast which followed the effects of a smallpox virus which was unleashed in the US before being transferred to the UK.

It covered the first deaths in contemporary New York to an eventual global pandemic killing 60 million people.

Anthrax

The programme was backed by the BBC's current affairs department and worked on by some of the world's leading experts on bio-terrorism, including Dr Henderson who is director of the US Office of Public Health Preparedness.

A scene from the BBC drama Smallpox 2002
The film depicted the effects of the smallpox virus
The drama used a strong documentary-style to lend it a realistic edge, although the disease was virtually wiped out in 1979.

The film actually went into production two years ago, long before the anthrax outbreak in the US which sparked fears of the start of biological warfare.

"Smallpox 2002 is undoubtedly a frightening film, but behind it lies a clear purpose," said producer Simon Chinn.

"In its vivid and realistic portrayal of a devastating bio-terrorist assault, it raises serious questions - and should generate an urgent national debate - about our ability to defend against one of real threats to our security, post-11 September," he added.


Talking PointFORUM
Smallpox 2002
The producer answered your questions

A BBC docu-drama has undercovered sobering truths about the UK's vaccine stocks
Smallpox: Is UK ready?

See also:

13 Dec 01 | England
Smallpox terror weapon warning
04 Nov 01 | Americas
Smallpox fears after anthrax
10 Oct 01 | Health
Anthrax as a biological weapon
29 Nov 01 | Health
US prepares for smallpox attack
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