Avian Flu: A State of Unreadiness

Superb article on Avian Flu. The reason why I think it belongs here on the International Forum (and not in “Health”) is due to the politics behind how the world is reacting. In a word, it’s “pathetic”, and we are likely to pay heavy consequences.

The article does (deservedly) blast the Bush administration for inaction, but not exclusively. The Clinton administration was asleep at the switch, and no other country has really picked up the ball.

[i]Under Democrats as well as Republicans, Washington has looked
the other way as local health departments have lost funding and
crucial hospital “surge capacity” has been eroded in the wake of the
HMO revolution. The government has also refused to address the
growing lack of new vaccines and antibiotics caused by the
pharmaceutical industry’s withdrawal from sectors it considers to be
insufficiently profitable; moreover, revolutionary breakthroughs in
vaccine design and manufacturing technology have languished
because of lack of sponsorship by either the government or the
drug industry.

In October 2000 the GAO scolded HHS for making so little progress
in the development of an avian flu vaccine. It warned that the United
States might have only a month (or less) of warning before a
pandemic became widespread, and it accused HHS of failing to
develop contingency plans to insure expanded
vaccine-manufacturing capacity. It also pointed to a major
contradiction in business-as-usual reliance on the private sector:

“Because no market exists for vaccine after [flu season],
manufacturers switch their capacity to other uses between about
mid-August and December.” At minimum, HHS needed to find some
way to keep production lines running full time, all year long, as well
as diversify the number of companies committed to vaccine
production. In addition, the GAO chided HHS for dithering over
whether to stockpile antivirals, even as top influenza experts were
begging the government to procure as much oseltamivir
(Tamiflu)–the most potent antiviral medicine for avian flu now
available–as possible. Finally, the audit faulted HHS for poor
coordination of the respective roles of the federal government, state
agencies and private manufacturers. Almost eight years of
“process,” the GAO report implied, had failed to achieve a “plan” in
any substantive or meaningful sense.[/i]

Read the rest of the article:
news.yahoo.com/s/thenation/20050 … 50718davis