A strain of avian flu known as H5N1 has killed at least 50 people in several Asian nations, including Vietnam and Thailand, and experts fear the virus could become adapted to humans and spread across the globe, similar to the 1918 flu pandemic that killed as many as 50 million people.

The Department of Health and Human Services previously announced plans to stockpile enough vaccine and anti-viral medications for 20 million people, and today’s announcement is part of that effort.

HHS said it awarded a $100 million contract to Sanofi Pasteur for a supply of vaccine still being developed that is designed to protect against infection with the H5N1 strain. In addition, GlaxoSmithKline was awarded a $2.8 million contract for 84,300 treatment courses of Relenza, an anti-viral medication that has been shown to be effective against the bird-flu strain.

Comparing it to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, [Dr. Andrew Pavia] said it’s similar to installing an effective levee system before a storm hits.

“You see the price tags up front and the politicians find reasons to spend the money elsewhere,” Pavia said, “but it has to be spent up front or the consequences of a pandemic will be much higher, and it’s not a matter of if, but when, a flu pandemic occurs.”

“Ultimately you would want to be able to vaccinate the whole population because historically pandemics come in waves and continue to come in waves,” Pavia said. “So you’re shooting for 280 or 300 million doses. Twenty million doses would just give you a head start” for vaccinating emergency responders and critical personnel, he said. In the meantime, vaccine product will have to be ramped up, and it can take six months or longer to make flu vaccines.

In practice, this reflects a core principle of Public Health services. You move the health of a whole nation to a higher priority than politics.

  1. John Schumann says:

    Who are the critical personnel? We don’t want a repeat of the Superdome mess. Sanitation workers, public utility workers, bus drivers, truck drivers, airline personnel, food service workers, grocery store workers, convenience store slerks, medical people, banking industry workers, telecommunicationsinfrastructure types, military personnel, police officers and prostitutes get first priority.

    Politicians, and their bureaucrats must be dead last (sorry, you public servants, you).

  2. Jetfire says:

    I see this every year or so when a new version of the bird flu comes out. ABC last night after Bushes Speech, said two weeks after Katrina the US is not ready for this. They said one company Roache(spelling?) makes a medication but not a anti-viral vaccination. This seems to be the only stuff to work on it (according to ABC). They said there is no vaccine for it yet and it would take at least 6 months to make one. But it has to mutate to jump from Human to Human first. Right now it’s Bird to Bird and Bird to Human. What they don’t tell you is this is happening all the time and when a new version comes out they have to find new medicine for that version. So if the US gets it’s stock pile of medicine for this version. It doesn’t mean that when the new version comes out that those 20 Million does will work on it. Plus I believe those dose go bad over time too.

    Don’t get me wrong The Feds should do something and have a plan in place. But it’s not as simple as some people think it is. The doomsayers say that 1 Billion people could die worldwide. Heck maybe it time natural thinned out the Human race a little with some good old Natural Selection. The Human race have survived Plagues before and will again.

  3. Mike Voice says:

    I was thinking of John’s concerns, the other day, when reading about the scientist who broke into his Katrina-flooded lab to destroy all the virus samples.


    Armed with bolt cutters and bleach, Dr. Raoult Ratard’s team entered the state’s so-called “hot lab,” and killed all the living samples.

    “This is what had to be done,” said Ratard, who matter-of-factly put a sudden end to his lab’s work on dangerous germs, which he wouldn’t name.

  4. Canada Drew says:

    What they don’t tell you is that this virus is “drifting” faster than they can create a suitable vacine for public consumption. Further, common misuse (abuse?) of available treatments is complicationg the issue:

    “Unfortunately, we also know that some strains of H5N1 have shown signs of being resistant to the four known antiviral medications – amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir (Tamiflu), and zanamivir (Relenza). One of our latest bits of information about H5N1 is that in China, chickens with this form of avian flu are being fed oseltamivir in an effort to prevent their deaths. The expected, though undesirable effect has been that H5N1 is developing resistance to this formerly successful antiviral drug.” (an exerpt from http://www.alpharubicon.com/med/otch5n1kosh.htm)


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