CDC, NIAID Heads Seek Greater Bioterrorism Funding
Two of the nation's top-ranking health officials said yesterday that $2.8 billion is needed to prepare adequately at the national and local levels against bioterrorism, a figure nearly double that requested by the Bush administration, the New York Times reports (Stolberg, New York Times, 11/30). CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health that the CDC needs $600 million to develop a federal plan to administer smallpox vaccine in addition to the roughly $500 million contract negotiated by HHS this week to purchase the vaccine (Connolly, Washington Post, 11/30). He also said that his agency needs $1.05 billion to bolster preparedness among state and local health agencies. Last month, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson requested $509 million for the purchase and maintenance of smallpox vaccine and $115 million for local and state preparedness. The House passed a spending bill granting Thompson's request on Wednesday, the same day that Thompson finalized a contract with Acambis to purchase 155 million doses of smallpox vaccine for $428 million. Also speaking before the committee yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that his agency needs $293 million -- $200 million more than requested by Thompson -- for research on anti-bioterrorism vaccines and treatments and for construction of a "high-containment laboratory" for research on "dangerous pathogens" (New York Times, 11/30).
Senators at the hearing yesterday joined other lawmakers and public health officials in saying that the administration's proposal is not sufficient, "especially in the area of modernizing state and local health departments," the Post reports. Koplan noted that only nine states and two cities currently receive federal money for preparedness against terrorist attacks and that only 50% of the nation's public health departments have "direct, secure Internet access" (Washington Post, 11/30). Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who led the hearing, said, "I think the administration is really low-balling this and is not facing up to the professional judgment of the people who are running these departments" (New York Times, 11/30). Harkin and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) have proposed spending $4 billion on bioterrorism preparedness, exceeding a $3.2 plan offered by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). William Pierce, a spokesperson for HHS, which oversees the CDC and NIAID, described Fauci and Koplan's remarks as "wish lists" and said that Thompson "remains committed to his original request." But when asked if the preparedness programs could wait, Koplan said, "We're facing risks now" (Washington Post, 11/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.