U.S. Has Made Progress in Flu Pandemic Preparedness Efforts, Federal Adviser Says
The federal government has made "significant progress" in preparations for a potential flu pandemic but must increase coordination with local, state and foreign governments, Department of Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend said on Monday, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Townsend said, "Preparedness is a shared responsibility." In addition, she said that the U.S. should support other nations in efforts that could help contain flu outbreaks within their borders.
Townsend also said that the federal government, which has developed guidelines and spent $600 million on state and local preparations for a potential flu pandemic, currently has three million doses of vaccine in the national stockpile and expects to have an additional five million doses by the end of 2007.
However, she said, "There are a number of barriers that will prevent us from having large amounts of vaccine quickly during a pandemic." According to Townsend, such barriers include limited flu vaccine production capacity, the brief shelf life of some vaccines and uncertainty about whether current vaccines will protect against future strains.
Townsend said the federal government has "no way of knowing" whether the H5N1 avian flu virus could lead to a pandemic. She added, "But one thing is clear: If this virus does not lead to a pandemic, another virus will" (Clough, Chicago Tribune, 12/19).