Senate Democrats

Reid: It’s Time to Take Action to Protect Americans From the Avian Flu

Washington, DC – Today, Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement on the Avian Flu:

“For nearly two years, Senate Democrats have been taking action to protect Americans from a potentially catastrophic avian flu pandemic and have been calling on the president to release and implement a comprehensive plan. I am pleased to see that the president has finally followed our lead and released his avian flu plan today.

“The United States has already fallen behind nations like Canada, Britain and Australia who finalized their avian flu plans months ago. The recent spread of avian flu to Europe proves we cannot afford to drag our feet any longer. The looming threat of a pandemic demands action now.

“Together, we can do better to protect Americans. Democrats have already secured $8 billion – nearly $1 billion more than the president outlined today – and began work to improve surveillance, increase our stockpile of antiviral medications and vaccines, improve our vaccine production capacity, strengthen our public health infrastructure, improve public awareness and to devote adequate resources to pandemic preparedness. I look forward to studying the plan the president has released today to ensure that it meets these important goals.”


January 2004: Kennedy asks HHS to release a Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan. In a letter to HHS Secretary Thompson, Senator Kennedy asks that the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plan be released and implemented.

January 2004: Bayh introduces the Flu Protection Act (S. 2038). Senator Bayh introduces legislation to strengthen the nation’s fragile vaccine supply and establish a plan to prevent, prepare for, and respond to an influenza pandemic.

March 10, 2005: Obama works for $25 million for international efforts. Senator Obama successfully attaches an amendment to S. 600, the Foreign Relations Committee Authorization Act, that (1) authorizes $25 million for international efforts to combat the avian influenza (1/4 of an appeal by the World Heath Organization – the traditional U.S. share) and (2) calls on the President to stand up an inter-agency task force to President should establish an interagency task force composed of representatives of the Department of State, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, and other appropriate agencies to immediate address this issue.

March 17, 2005: Obama obtains $25 million for international efforts. Senator Obama successfully attaches an amendment to the Senate Budget that allocated $25 million for international efforts to combat the avian influenza.

April 28, 2005: Senator Obama introduces the AVIAN Act (S. 969). Senator Obama introduces the first comprehensive bill to address the threat of an avian influenza pandemic.

May 10, 2005: Senate approves $58 million to stockpile antiviral medication. Senator Harkin secures $58 million in a Supplemental Appropriations bill (P.L. 109-13) to purchase more antiviral medication for the Strategic National Stockpile to better prepare for a potential avian flu pandemic.

July 28, 2005: Senator Kennedy introduces the Vaccine Access and Supply Act. S. 1527 is comprehensive legislation that would strengthen vaccine infrastructure and help better prepare our nation in the event of an influenza pandemic.

September 28, 2005: Reid urges immediate action to better prepare for the threat of avian flu. Democratic Leader Harry Reid makes a statement on the Senate floor expressing the importance of immediately committing the resources necessary to protect Americans. He states that we cannot wait for the perfect plan on paper any longer and announces that Democrats will offer a pandemic preparedness amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill.

September 29, 2005: Senate approves $3.9 billion Democratic Pandemic Flu amendment. The Senate approved a Democratic amendment offered by Senators Harkin, Reid, Obama, Kennedy, Bayh, Durbin and others that would appropriate $3.9 billion in emergency funds for pandemic flu preparedness funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

October 4, 2005: Democrats call on Bush to release his plan. Thirty-three Senate Democrats sign a letter to President Bush encouraging him 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. On October 13, 2005, Candida Wolff, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, responded with a letter thanking the Senators for their comments but failed to explain when or how the President would focus on this looming crisis.

October 5, 2005: Democrats introduce the Pandemic Preparedness and Response Act. Senate Democrats, led by Senator Reid, introduce comprehensive legislation (S. 1821) to help America prepare for and protect from a possible Avian flu pandemic. S. 1821 would:

  • Prepare for a pandemic by finalizing, implementing and funding pandemic preparedness and response plans.
  • Improve surveillance and international partnerships to monitor the spread of avian flu and detect the emergence of a flu strain with pandemic potential immediately.
  • Protect Americans through the development, production and distribution of an effective vaccine.
  • Plan ahead for a pandemic by stockpiling antivirals, vaccines and other essential medications and supplies.
  • Strengthen our public health infrastructure. Inform Americans by increasing awareness and education about pandemic flu.
  • Commit to protecting Americans by devoting adequate resources to pandemic preparedness.

October 7, 2005: Democrats question Secretary Leavitt on antiviral medication. A group of Senate Democrats, including Senators Reid, Durbin, Bayh, Harkin, Kennedy and Obama, wrote Secretary Leavitt asking him to why the federal government has fallen so far behind other nations that have ordered enough antiviral medication to treat between 20 and 40 percent of the their populations. The letter asks how the Secretary plans to secure enough antivirals to protect a large portion of Americans in a timely manner given the limited production capacity of those antivirals believed to be effective against avian flu. Secretary Leavitt has not yet responded to this letter.

October 17, 2005: Kennedy introduces the National Biodefense and Pandemic Preparedness Act. Senator Kennedy introduces the National Biodefense and Pandemic Preparedness Act of 2005 (S. 18810).

October 20, 2005: Schumer reaches deal with Roche to increase Tamiflu supply. Senator Schumer reaches a deal with Roche Pharmaceuticals to alleviate the shortage of the only known effective antiviral, Tamiflu, by licensing its production to other companies. Roche held meetings with four companies last week to plan the implementation of the agreement.

October 24, 2005: Lieberman introduces the global Network for Avian Influenza Surveillance Act. This act puts money into tracking wild birds that spread the flu to see how the virus is changing and to prepare populations in the flight path of infected wild birds.

October 27, 2005: Senate Approves $8 billion Democratic pandemic preparedness amendment. The Senate approved an amendment offered by Senator Harkin and other democrats that would add $8 billion to the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill to improve the country’s readiness for a potential pandemic flu outbreak. Democrats continue to support funding to bolster vaccine capacity, purchase additional antiviral medications, enhance global disease surveillance, improve state and local medical response capabilities, and surge capacity readiness.