Former U.S. Senator Jim Talent (R-MO) is sounding the alarm about America’s response to the H1N1 virus and how it proves the country needs better medical emergency plans to deal with any biological event, natural or manmade.
Talent, co-chairman of the congressionally mandated Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, says that while government can anticipate biological weapons that might be used during a terrorist attack, the knowledge is of little use if the nation does not have stockpiles of medication and vaccines needed to treat those in the affected areas. He’s concerned because the country has not adequately prepared for what he fears might happen in the not too distant future.
“The H1N1 virus has spotlighted a lack of capability that’s very dangerous for the country,” said Talent in an interview with the Missourinet. “The fact [is] that we cannot produce vaccines quickly and we have not stockpiled the necessary vaccines or medical therapeutics to respond to a biological attack.”
Talent says that while we might not be able to stop a biological attack we can certainly take steps to address the after effects.
“One of the ways you deal with that is you have the medicine stockpiled so you can really minimize the effects of the attack,” said Talent. “We don’t have the vaccines and we’re not pursuing the technologies we need to get the vaccines.”
There is quite a price tag attached to this kind of disaster preparation but Talent says it would be money well spent.
“We recommended $1.7 billion a year, at least initially,” said Talent. “Our studies indicate you’ll need to get up to about $3-billion a year and if you can do that then we can protect against all the most likely kinds of pathogens.”
With the billions of dollars being spent on so many programs, Talent has no doubt that the federal government has the money needed to protect the country.
“They’ve got the money,” said Talent. “The problem is just focusing their decision making enough on these high priority items.”
The Commission’s initial report, co-written by Talent and former U.S. Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) in 2008, concluded it is more likely than not that terrorists would succeed in using a weapon of mass destruction somewhere in the world by 2013. The Commission maintains a web site. There is also a site dedicated to information on vaccines. Within the next month Talent and Graham will issue a report card to Congress.