The U.S. is unprepared for the next flu pandemic, lacking the manufacturing capacity to provide 300 million doses of a vaccine for three to five more years, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said Sunday.Perhaps now is the time that everybody starts praying but if this country is unprepared, we are all screwed. I hope this is not a case of the media's agenda framing to scare us.
"What we all learned from (Hurricane) Katrina is that sometimes we have to think very clearly about the unthinkable," Leavitt said. "We're not as prepared as we need to be. ...We will not have enough for everyone."
A strain of a bird flu that has killed 67 people in Asia has sparked concerns of a super-flu that could kill millions worldwide, and U.S. officials acknowledge that the strain in its current form could reach here through a migratory bird.
While stressing that chances remain slight, health experts say it could lead to a global pandemic if the bird flu mutates to start spreading easily among people.
"We can't put a number on how probable that's going to be," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the infectious disease division of the National Institutes of Health. "It's a low probability. When the consequences are unimaginable, you must assume the worst-case scenario."
Added Dr. Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization: "This is certainly a dangerous virus, and it has crossed the species barrier now in 130 cases. We're probably closer to a pandemic at any time in the last 37 years."
The U.S., which has not seen any signs of the strain in birds or people, has only enough doses now for 4.3 million people.
President Bush has proposed stockpiling enough of the anti-flu drugs Tamiflu and Relenza for 81 million people, a goal drug manufacturers believe they can reach by the middle of next year, said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We're not prepared for vaccination, that's why we need to scale up. We are doing studies to extend the value of the vaccine ... allowing us to vaccinate more people with the same doses," so the timeframe might be quicker, she said.
Leavitt said the low supply means state and local governments will have to make tough choices on how best to allocate the vaccine should an outbreak occur. The federal government has suggested top priority be given to first responders.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
In the name of everything holy, shame on those that have made the United States unprepared for the bird flu.