Washington, DC — With the White House today issuing their plan for pandemic flu, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid issued the following statement.
“Public health experts are warning us that the next flu pandemic is not a matter of if, but a question of when. We know that the consequences of a pandemic could be devastating, and we know that our nation remains dangerously unprepared to deal with this threat.
“Although the Administration’s release of the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza was a long time in coming, it represents a step in the right direction. However, we have a long way to go if we are going to do everything we can to prepare our nation for this looming threat.
“First, we need to secure the resources we need to adequately prepare our nation against this threat. Last year, the President approved less than half of the $8 billion passed by the Senate for pandemic preparedness and $3.3 billion less than the President himself said was necessary for this purpose. The President failed to include the remainder of these funds in his most recent emergency supplemental appropriations request to Congress. That is why Senate Democrats, led by Senator Harkin, passed an amendment to add an additional $2.3 billion to the Senate Supplemental Appropriations bill. If we do not address this funding shortfall in the final bill, we will not have adequate resources to fund key protections in a timely manner.
“Second, the Administration’s plan does not do enough to support the state and local governments that will be on the frontlines of any future pandemic. The level of protection that Americans receive should not depend on where they live.
“Finally, we need to make protecting the American people – not special interests – our highest priority. To accomplish this task, we need to address a provision that was inserted into legislation in the dead of night without any debate last December. This new law gives unprecedented and sweeping liability protections to the pharmaceutical industry even when Americans are harmed by their medicines. The liability provisions do not provide for compensation to victims who are injured and shield manufacturers even if their actions constitute reckless wrongdoing. I support reasonable protections for vaccine makers whose products may cause unforeseen or unpreventable harm, but protections must be narrowly tailored and must be accompanied with protections and compensation for injured patients.”