September 16, 2005

Avian Flu: "This is a right now issue..."

Hugh Hewitt:

...Even as work accelerates along the Gulf, the dangers from terrorism remain, and a new threat continues to approach: avian bird flu. Given that everyone who follows the subject sees the threat of an epidemic as a real possibility, the Adminsitration simply has to have a plan and it has to work. Today's Wall Street Journal's report on vaccine production is thus not comforting. (Subscription required.) Key infromation: The Department of Homeland Security gave Sanofi-Aventis Group a $100 million contract to produce a supply of the vaccine to thwart the killer flu. Other, smaller contracts have been let as well, but the gap between promised supply and obvious need is huge:....

.....Look. This is a right now issue, with Indonesia reporting its fifth case just hours ago. The UN's chief health official is ramping up his warnings, and although the president emphasized the threat at his UN speech, the American public is not aware of the magnitude of the threat, and a plan to produce vaccine for 20 million people in a nation of 300 million when the disease may have as much as a 50% kill rate just isn't "preparedness."

A whole lot of money is about to gush out of the Congress, and while the recovery effort on the Gulf deserves its priority status, the Congress should appropriate whatever it needs to in order to get the supplies of the necessary drugs up and running. A couple of well-publicized hearings on this matter would also be useful.

The buck will again stop on the president's desk, though, and he knows it. I hope he has communicated to all involved that he wants a plan on his desk on the hour by hour response once ABF reaches the US.

Skeptical? Read this. There are plenty of threats in the world (including this terrorist plot that almost got started in Los Angeles, and very few of them can be thwarted just by spending more money. ABF is, however, one of those threats which can be boxed in with planning and budget as it is a question of having and distributing the vaccines and treatments that work...

My understanding is that, no matter what we do, there will not be vaccines to combat the first wave of the pandemic. The flu that hits will be different from what's seen now; Flu mutates easily, which is why it is so hard to fight. and vaccine production takes time. (And the mutations could make the flu less deadly. So this could all fizzle-out, but that doesn't mean the threat wasn't real!)

Posted by John Weidner at September 16, 2005 9:27 AM
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