Bush Reveals Flu Pandemic Plan
Proposal Includes Funding for Bird Flu Vaccines and Antiviral Drugs
Nov. 1, 2005 -- President Bush outlined a long-awaited national preparedness
plan for pandemic influenza Tuesday, asking Congress for $7.1 billion in
emergency spending to boost the country's readiness for an outbreak that could
include bird flu.
In a speech, Bush gave broad outlines of the plan. The strategy includes
increasing preparedness in vaccine and drug production, disease surveillance,
and state and local emergency response plans.
Three major flu pandemics struck the world during the 20th century, and
public health experts have spent years warning that another widespread outbreak
is highly likely. The recent public attention focused on bird flu, which has
killed 62 and sickened 121 people in Southeast Asia, gave the warnings new
urgency and spurred policy makers into action.
So far the bird flu virus, H5N1, has not gained the ability to spread from
human to human. But the prospect worries experts because humans lack natural
immunity to the virus.
The president repeatedly stressed that there are no signs that a bird flu
outbreak is imminent but that the country would now move to increase its
Bush implored Americans to "take personal responsibility for stopping
the spread of the virus" in the event of a pandemic and encouraged citizens
to visit a new government web site, , to pick up tips on
hygiene and flu preparedness.
"If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to
prepare," Bush said in a speech at the National Institutes of Health campus
in Bethesda, Md.
The plan includes $4.7 billion in government purchases and technology
investments for vaccine makers to speed production of both annual seasonal flu
shots and a still-experimental H5N1 vaccine. Bush said he would also ask
Congress to give vaccine makers long-sought immunity against patient lawsuits
as a way to entice more companies to enter the vaccine market.
Only one company -- Aventis Pasteur -- makes injectable flu vaccine in the
U.S. The rest of the national supply comes from overseas plants. Part of the
administration's plan includes nearly $3 billion to help manufacturers develop
more rapid ways of producing vaccines, which are now made in a months-long
process using chicken eggs to grow flu viruses.
"In the event of a pandemic, we must have enough vaccine for every
American," the president said.
Public health experts have spent years warning lawmakers and the public
about gaps in the nation's preparedness for a flu pandemic. The warnings
largely crystallized after Southeast Asia's bird flu outbreak and after
Hurricane Katrina revealed shortcomings in the government's disaster-response
"This is a historic day in public health. We have worked hard for a
decade to put influenza on the table," Julie M. Gerberding, MD, director of
the CDC, tells WebMD.