|Washington, D.C.-President Barack Obama declared H1N1 a national emergency this weekend, a status that will give the federal government greater flexibility and authority to contain the pandemic. But the current shortage of H1N1 vaccine underscores the severe lack of U.S. preparedness in responding to pandemics, whether through natural disease transmission or man-made bio-terrorist attacks, according to a video from the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, a commission created by Congress to address the grave threat that proliferation of these weapons poses to the US.
The Commissionís Report in 2008 assessed both nuclear and biological threats, and provided 13 recommendations and 49 action items. The Commissioners unanimously concluded that unless we act urgently and decisively, it was more likely than not that terrorists would attack a major city somewhere in the world with a weapon of mass destruction by 2013. They determined that terrorists are more likely to obtain and use a biological weapon than a nuclear weapon.
"Whether the threat is from naturally occurring disease or bio-terrorism, the United States needs to be able to produce vaccines and other medicines faster and less expensively. We had six months of advance warning for the H1N1 pandemic. A bio terrorism attack will have no advance warning," said Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Commission. "Creating the infrastructure for rapid development of large quantities of safe vaccines and medicine is a win-win for public health and national security."
Graham had been asked to testify before the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security of the US Senate Judiciary Committee on September 22, 2009. Their concern was with dealing with "Strengthening Security and Oversight at Biological Research Laboratories."
The commission brought to light that the United States-unlike the European Union and China-continues to use a 60-year old production method, using chicken eggs, to make H1N1 and other important vaccines. If modern methods shave months off the typical six-to-nine months that current processes require, then more vaccine could be quickly scaled-up, on demand.
Graham's commission released a two-minute video to engage the U.S. public on the need to improve the nation's capability to produce vaccines and medicines faster and less expensively-and just as safely. The video and resources are available at www.FasterVaccines.org and the website includes links to public discussions on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.
"The video takes a light approach to a serious issue," said former US Senator Jim Talent from Missouri, commission vice chairman. "We want the public to know there are better options, and encourage policymakers to have the foresight to invest in them."
Editor's note: Katie Smith of freedomsolutions.org contributed to this post. A search of freedom solutions.org brings up the American Freedom & Enterprise Foundation of which Talent is chair. The foundation, according to an article by AP in the Missourian was recently formed to promote free market principles.