FAS Calls for More Funding to Prepare for Possible Pandemic Influenza Outbreak
The Federation of American Scientists is concerned that the nation is not prepared for public health emergencies, in particular a potential outbreak of avian influenza. We have been working in conjunction with several other groups as part of the Working Group on Pandemic Influenza Preparedness to provide recommendations on the Department of Health and Human Services pandemic preparedness plan. The group’s statement will appear in the January issue of the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Our recommendations have been passed on to conferees on the Department of Defense Spending Bill.
We will continue to work on this important issue and will post updates as they happen.
Below is the most recent letter FAS sent to Senators Frist and Reid regarding funding for pandemic influenza preparedness in the Department of Defense Spending bill.
December 20, 2005
On behalf of the Federation of American Scientists, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting responsible national security and strong science education, I want to thank you for your leadership in preparing the nation for public health emergencies.
FAS was established by the scientists from the Manhattan Project sixty years ago and our activities in national security, arms control, government information policy, science education, housing and energy are endorsed by our board of sponsors including 60 Nobel Laureates in physics, chemistry, economics, and medicine.
As you know, the avian influenza A, H5N1 virus poses a serious threat to national security and the United States is currently unprepared should this or some other avian influenza virus mutate to become easily transmissible from human to human. We commend the administration and the House for their efforts to establish and fund a national plan for handling a potential pandemic, but several important issues remain to be addressed.
The $3.8 billion provided for pandemic preparedness in the House Department of Defense spending bill is a good start. However, this is a small fraction of what will be required to prepare the nation and is less then the President called for. We urge the Congress to revisit this important issue at the start of the second session.
We are particularly concerned about the sweeping vaccine liability provisions in the House version of the DoD spending bill and the lack of funding for a compensation program for those who might be adversely affected by the use of pandemic influenza vaccines. This is particularly important for the 45 million Americans who do not have health insurance.
The $350 million provided for in the House bill for upgrading state and local infrastructure and is more than double what the administration called for in its plan. However, this will not begin to address the lack of surge capacity that is needed during public health emergencies. We are very concerned that, without more funding, states will not be able to adequately plan for the large makeshift facilities and coordination that will be necessary to care for the sick.
Currently, no American cities have hospitals that can handle thousands of patients in the event of an outbreak. Emergency rooms and intensive care units would be quickly overrun with flu patients in the event of a serious outbreak. Funding must be provided for hospitals to prepare for public health emergencies.
Finally, we believe that enough funding should be made available to ensure that the nation is prepared for a potential pandemic well before the 2010 date that the administration has set. Adequate investment in preparation now could save millions of lives and trillions of dollars later.
I thank you for your attention and dedication to this important issue. The Federation of American Scientists looks forward to working with you on this and other issues in the future. Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at (202) 454-4686.
Henry Kelly, Ph.D.
December 22, 2005 3:57 PM