Bush Releases $7.1B Pandemic Flu Preparation Plan
President Bush on Tuesday announced that he will ask Congress for $7.1 billion in emergency funding for a flu pandemic preparation strategy that calls for improving disease surveillance, stockpiling and boosting production of antiviral medications and vaccines, and increasing preparedness among state and local governments, the Washington Times reports (Howard Price, Washington Times, 11/2). Bush released his plan during a speech at NIH to doctors, scientists and members of Congress (Sternberg/Benedetto, USA Today, 11/2).
Also in attendance were CDC Director Julie Gerberding and World Health Organization Director-General Jong-Wook Lee (Brown, Washington Post, 11/2).
Bush emphasized that a flu pandemic comparable to those that occurred in 1918, 1957 and 1968 is not imminent (Washington Times, 10/2). "There is no pandemic flu in our country or in the world at this time," Bush said, adding, "[B]ut if we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare, and one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today" (Pugh, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/2).
According to USA Today, Bush's plan "acknowledges that the federal government can't provide blanket protection" against a deadly flu virus.
The plan, titled the "National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza," calls for a "system of plans at all levels of government and in all sectors outside of government" to prepare for a flu pandemic (USA Today, 11/2).
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt will release details of the plan during congressional testimony on Wednesday (Harris, New York Times, 11/2).
Bush also has launched a government Web site, pandemicflu.gov, to help educate U.S. residents about how to prepare for a potential pandemic. The Los Angeles Times notes that under the plan, the Department of Homeland Security would be in charge of the government's response in the event of a pandemic (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 11/2).
The first goal of Bush's plan is improving detection of flu outbreaks in animals and humans worldwide. According to the Washington Times, Bush in October announced the International Partnership in Avian and Pandemic Influenza, under which nations and organizations will be required to share information immediately about potential flu outbreaks, take steps to control spread of the disease and send samples of the virus to WHO for analysis.
The second goal of Bush's plan is to stockpile vaccines and antiviral drugs and improve the U.S.'s ability to rapidly produce vaccines in the event of a pandemic. NIH already is working with the vaccine industry to use new cell-culture technology -- instead of the traditional method using chicken eggs -- to develop enough vaccine to immunize all U.S. residents within six months of the inception of a pandemic, the Washington Times reports (Washington Times, 11/2).
Companies developing cell-based production techniques include Chiron, Sanofi-Aventis and Solvay (Lueck/Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 11/2).
Bush also called on Congress to reduce liability for vaccine manufacturers, noting that lawsuits have stymied growth in the U.S. commercial vaccine market (Heil/Cohn, CongressDaily, 11/1). Bush's plan calls for states to purchase 31 million of the 81 million courses of antiviral medications that will comprise the national stockpile. States will be responsible for 75% of the cost of that purchase (New York Times, 11/2).
Finally, the third goal of Bush's plan is to help state and local governments prepare for a possible pandemic. To do so, Bush said the administration is launching the National Biosurveillance Initiative to help states "rapidly detect, quantify and respond to outbreaks of disease in humans and animals and deliver information quickly to state and local and national and international public health officials" (Washington Times, 11/2).
The largest item in Bush's plan is $2.8 billion for research into cell-based vaccine manufacturing techniques (New York Times, 11/2).
The plan also calls for $1.2 billion to purchase 40 million doses -- enough for 20 million people -- of an experimental vaccine against the H5N1 avian flu virus currently circulating in Asia (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/1). The order could take three or four more years to complete, according to a senior White House official (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/2).
In addition, the plan earmarks $1 billion to purchase the antiviral medications including Tamiflu and Relenza and $583 million for states and local governments to prepare emergency plans to respond to an outbreak of flu (Neergaard, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/1).
The Bush administration hopes to implement the plan fully by 2010, the Boston Globe reports (Smith, Boston Globe, 11/1).
According to the Journal, "the Senate has indicated it would fund a flu initiative at the level ... Bush seeks" (Wall Street Journal, 11/2).
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said, "I think he's got an excellent strategy, and I'm glad to see him outline it" (Bor, Baltimore Sun, 11/2).
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said, "The president's bold and decisive leadership today reflects his understanding of the urgency of confronting this issue" (New York Times, 11/2).
A spokesperson for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said Bush's plan is "almost identical" to the plan outlined in a Senate amendment to the Department of Labor-HHS fiscal year 2006 spending bill. The Senate plan, approved last week, calls for $8 billion for flu preparedness (CongressDaily, 11/1).
The funding for Bush's plan would be covered by the $8 billion earmarked in the Senate's Labor-HHS amendment.
Meanwhile, Frist and Senate Budget Committee Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) on Tuesday planned to offer an amendment to the budget reconciliation bill (S 1932) that would earmark $3.95 billion to help offset the costs of Bush's plan. According to CQ HealthBeat, the House "has been fairly quiet about funding" for pandemic preparedness while "awaiting direction from the White House," and now Republican leaders "will need to decide exactly how to proceed -- and which spending bill to use as the vehicle" (CQ HealthBeat, 11/1).
According to the Washington Times, the spending called for in Bush's plan "will get a close look from fiscal conservatives in Congress."
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said he is "not yet convinced a supplemental [spending measure] is necessary" and added that the U.S. should not increase the federal budget deficit. "We can and should budget for disasters, especially those which are foreseen, as is the case of a possible disease outbreak," Hensarling said (Washington Times, 11/2).
Several broadcast programs reported on reaction to Bush's avian flu preparedness plan. Summaries of selected reports appear below.
- APM's "Marketplace": The segment includes comments from Bush; Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; and Eric Toner, senior associate at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh (Palmer, "Marketplace," APM, 11/1). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- CBS' "Evening News": The segment includes comments from Bush, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Roberts, "Evening News," CBS, 11/1). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- C-SPAN's "Washington Journal": Gerberding answered questions about the plan on the program ("Washington Journal," C-SPAN, 11/2). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Bush, Harkin, Obama, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Specter (Rovner, "Morning Edition," NPR, 11/2). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": The segment includes comments from Bush; Harkin; Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota; and David Stout, president for pharmaceutical operations at GlaxoSmithKline (Dentzer, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 11/1). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.