So the big BushCo Bird Flu plan is finally out. Typically, like any guilty, abusive parent, he's showering us with money. Actually, it's more promises than money since the billions he's talking about are mostly going to be funnelled into Big Pharma's pockets. Effect Measure has the best review of the plan. This is my favorite part because it is the flipside of today's big headline: BUSH ASKS FOR BILLIONS FOR VACCINE PRODUCTION!
Bush also wants $1.2 billion to purchase enough H5N1 vaccine, developed by NIH, to vaccinate 20 million people. But there is no vaccine yet. The experimental batch that went through clinical trials a few months ago showed itself unable to protect people unless unrealistically high doses were used. And the strain it was directed against has already changed, so the best one could hope for would be some residual cross protection. No one knows how effective that would be, but no where near as effective as a vaccine directed against the actual pandemic strain when that arrives. There is also a $2.8 billion request to develop cell culture vaccines instead of conventional egg-based ones. That is already happening (Sanofi-Pasteur) but will take time. R&D money could have been pumped into this obvious need years ago, but the Administration relied on private sector initiative and Big Pharma had no interest in the lower profit vaccine business when it could make high profit Viagra and similar drugs. So the work didn't get done and now we are playing catch up. The bottom line for Big Pharma (the only line it cares about) will be that the public will fund the R&D and the big drug companies will be allowed to privatize the profits. And they are being asked to do it in a hurry, without time for adequate safety testing. So they don't want to take the risk and want immunity from suits.
If you're reading the corporate media today thinking that everything will be okay because BushCo is making noise about stockpiling Tamiflu and creating super vaccines in record time with new technology (suddenly he's all about the miracles of modern science), my guess is that when a panflu hits the U.S., you'll be wondering how Dear Leader could have let you down. Part of the answer is, of course, "You fool. What ever made you think that BushCo, who, since he took office, has been dismantling the very social structures and programs that are in place to protect you, could be trusted to take care of the country?" But part of the answer is that no president can protect the entire country from the effects of a panflu. BushCo is simply uniquely unqualified.
We need a leader who knows the value of community. This is one of those dare-to-be-great moments that seem to be coming along with increasing frequency. A great leader would be honest about the limitations of throwing billions at Big Pharma. A great leader would demand that local governments and industry, from the smallest villages on up, submit preliminary panflu plans no latter than December 31 with final versions due by January 30 and that those plans coordinate with surrounding jurisdictions and are kept up-to-date. Local water treatment plants, electrical plants, nuclear plants, (put your indepensible utility/industry here) need protocols on file that would allow National Guard troops (whatever we have on hand) and other volunteers to walk in and run the joint without a break in service.
Surveys of people in need of daily medications need to be made. How are they going to get their meds if supply lines are down? Volunteer lists need to be drawn up. Who's going to take insulin to shut-ins? Or to people who are self-quarantining?
Who's going to back up the fire department or police department when half the staff is down with the flu?
Protective clothing needs to be stockpiled.
Education/information seminars need to be held. We need to educate communities about the value of better hygeine practices. State and local boards of health need to be built up instead of torn down. A great leader would remember the value of public health services and fully fund them top to bottom.
School boards need to figure out what to do about facilitating homeschooling.
Where will we put the auxilliary morgues? What facillities can serve as emergency hospitals to take the patient overflow?
That's only the tip of the iceberg but I think that 90% of what a good municipal panflu plan covers is not too diffcult to do. The most difficult part now will be dealing with the ego problems that always pop up and hobble cooperative efforts. Basically the goal is to keep the water running and to keep people from panicking and/or dying in the streets. Good planning now will go a long way to keeping panic at a minimum when people do start dying or when food is harder to find. The planning gets trickier when we start talking about stuff like the personal stockpiling of food. But personal responsibility needs to be addressed. Leaders who ignore it are cowards.
Related: You can go to Pandemicflu.gov to see if your state has a Panflu plan and whether it's any good. If you get active on this issue, be sure to check out the FluWikie for tips and general education on the topic.
My state, PA, has a panflu plan but it's so vague, it's useless. That's a bummer because the person I spoke to at the county level told me that the state plan is the county plan, which makes no sense at all. As far as I know, my township has no plan. Maybe the state plan is their plan too! This is the kind of leadership we can count on being useless when up to two thirds of the popluation is incapacited during a pandemic. Now is the time to help local administrators see what has to be done. We really don't have any excuse not to at least try.