BMJ. 2005 Nov 12; 331(7525): 1103.
Bush announces US plan for flu pandemic
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President Bush laid out the federal plan to tackle the risk of an influenza pandemic in a 30 minute speech on 1 November before six cabinet secretaries, top US health officials, and World Health Organization and United Nations' directors.
After outlining the history of previous pandemics, including the 1918 flu that killed more than half a million Americans, he set three goals—detecting outbreaks, stockpiling vaccines, and having emergency plans in place.
As part of the initiative to detect outbreaks before they spread across the world, Mr Bush had previously announced a new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza at a UN meeting in September. Eighty eight countries and nine international organisations have already joined this initiative.
The United States will stockpile vaccines and antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir), and accelerate the development of new vaccine technologies. Mr Bush said that the National Institutes of Health was working with leaders of the vaccine industry to replace the use of chicken eggs with a cell culture technology. He also called for liability protection for vaccine makers.
The US will also have emergency plans in place in all 50 states and every local community. Michael Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, will bring together state and local public health officials nationwide to discuss pandemic preparedness.
These plans would require emergency funding of $7.1bn (£4.1bn; €6bn) from Congress, he said. Last week the US Senate passed 94 to three a measure to spend $8bn on pandemic influenza preparations.
Of the $7.1bn requested, $2.8bn would be used to develop methods to decrease the time needed to make a vaccine; $1.52bn would purchase influenza vaccines; $1.03bn would stockpile antiviral medications; $800m would develop new treatments and vaccines; $644m would go towards pandemic preparedness; and $251m would be allocated to help other countries detect and contain outbreaks.
Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, a Democrat, said that Mr Bush's proposal “needs to be stronger” and called for more spending to ensure that hospitals and other healthcare facilities have the capacity to handle a flood of patients. But the Senate's Republican leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, praised Mr Bush, and said, “The president's bold and decisive leadership today reflects his understanding of the urgency of confronting this issue.”
“This is a historic day in public health,” said Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have worked for more than a decade to put influenza on the table, and now the president and leaders of Congress are completely engaged.”
The Department of Health and Human Services released a 396 page pandemic flu document after the president's speech, focused on federal and state planning. It assumed a hypothetical 90 million Americans would be taken sick, and nearly two million would die, in such an event. See www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/healthcare