Washington, D.C. – Today, Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Bush calling on him to take important steps to protect and prepare Americans for an Avian Flu pandemic.
A text of the letter is following:
October 4, 2005
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We write to express our grave concern that the nation is dangerously unprepared for the serious threat of avian influenza. This deadly new strain of flu is highly lethal and could easily become a worldwide pandemic. It is spreading in Southeast Asia today, and could threaten the lives of millions of Americans tomorrow. Dr. Lee Jong-wook, Director-General of the World Health Organization, warns that “No Government, Head of State, or Minister of Health can afford to be caught off guard. There is a storm brewing that will test us all….Failure to take this threat seriously and prepare appropriately will have catastrophic consequences.”
We are deeply concerned that the Administration is not adequately heeding this warning and is failing to take the steps essential to protect the nation from this major disease. Dr. Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services, recently admitted that the nation is not as prepared as we need to be. This lack of advance planning and inadequate preparedness can have tragic consequences when disaster strikes.
The Pandemic Influenza Response and Preparedness Plan, which the WHO deems essential to proper readiness, has yet to be finalized, despite having been released in draft form over a year ago. As a result of this inaction, preparations for an avian flu pandemic have been needlessly delayed. The nation’s public health infrastructure is weak, and our hospitals lack adequate surge capacity – yet the Administration has proposed cuts in the very programs that provide critical elements in our preparedness for epidemics. The Administration has also failed to meet the World Health Organization recommendations for building stockpiles of vaccine and anti-viral medication.
Action is urgently needed to address the threat of pandemic flu. Last week, the Senate approved a Democratic amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill to begin providing the resources needed to address this threat. Specifically, the amendment provides $3.9 billion to stockpile antivirals and necessary medical supplies; expand global surveillance and domestic vaccine infrastructure; improve state and local emergency preparedness centers and hospital surge capacity; and provide risk communication and outreach to providers, businesses, and to the American public.
We urge you to release the final Pandemic Influenza Plan without further delay, allocate the resources necessary to address this threat and take the steps necessary to protect the American people.