Former Senator Jim Talent is vice chairman of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which has concluded that terrorists are more likely to launch a biological attack against the United States than a nuclear one. Talent understands that distributing vaccine to a large number of people after such an attack presents incredible challenges, but.
“The public health authorities believe it can be done,” Talent says. “There are places they are doing it better than other places.”
Still, Talent acknowledges the federal government’s poor response to the H1N1 virus doesn’t inspire confidence.
“Absolutely and this we have known about for months,” says Talent. “We know the eight or ten pathogens that are most likely to be used in the event of an attack. In fact, there are three or four that are right now definitely the most likely, beginning with Anthrax and we really could prepare for that at least on a list of cities where the attack is most likely to occur. This kind of attack is not going to occur in a rural area. You can pretty much identify the target centers.”
Such centers include the most populous areas of the United States, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. It could also include St. Louis as well as Kansas City during holidays, such as the Independence Day celebrations that gather thousands in outdoor areas.
H1N1, known as the Swine Flu, has spread to 46 states. It has caused 1,000 deaths in the United States. Twenty thousand have been hospitalized because of it. This flu has hit early. Seasonal flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, usually peaks in late November to early March. H1N1 has hit young adults and children hard, another difference with normal flu strains, which tend to hit an older population.
Federal officials had counted on 40 million doses of vaccine available by the end of October, but production problems have limited supply to under 30 million doses which have just now be trickling out to communities, both in a nasal form and as a regular shot.