States Lack Ability To Distribute Prescription Drugs, Vaccines in Event of Bioterrorist Attack
Most states lack the ability to distribute "push packs" of prescription drugs, vaccines and other medical supplies from a national stockpile to local communities in the event of a bioterrorist attack, according to a report prepared by Democratic staff on the House Homeland Security Committee, the AP/Boston Globe reports. For the report, aides to Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) sent to health officials in 50 states a survey that included five questions about state funds and preparedness for a bioterrorist attack or an outbreak of a serious infectious disease.
Among the 41 states that responded to the survey, three reported that they were at the highest level of preparedness for a bioterrorist attack, based on a three-point scale developed by CDC. According to the survey, four states reported that were at the lowest level of preparedness. The report said that the federal government has failed to provide adequate funds to ensure that "push packs," which can reach any state within 12 hours, reach local communities.
However, HHS spokesperson Tony Jewell said that none of the 50 states has used all of the funds -- a combined $5.4 billion -- provided by the federal government since Sept. 11, 2001, to improve hospital preparedness and public health programs. Jewell also criticized the report as "petty partisan politics," adding, "No president in history has done more to strengthen our public health and emergency response capabilities than President Bush" (Pfleger Shrader, AP/Boston Globe, 10/25).