Iowa Senator Tom Harkin thinks Uncle Sam should use some of that ARRA funding to provide for all Americans a "free nationwide voluntary flu vaccination program to fend off future outbreaks of dangerous strains."
Did someone talk to the good senator about the likelihood (read: absolute certainty) of mutations?
""The harsh reality is that we have repeatedly experienced devastating flu pandemics," Harkin said in a statement."
The harsh reality, senator, is that no matter how many of us are vaccinated, new strains will occur, and we will CONTINUE to experience devastating flu pandemics.
Vaccines are made from CURRENT strains of flu, and are normally predictive. Reactive vaccines are developed only after a new strain has been identified and cultured, which means chances are someone (or a whole lot of someones) are already infected with it.
You'd do far better, Senator, to set up $ and time for an emergency response plan to develop reactive vaccines at designated sites in every city, and figure out a way to involve the CDC, Homeland Security, etc. to act as Pony Express-type couriers delivering the vaccine to these sites for replication and distribution when an outbreak occurs.
Without this kind of national emergency plan (which could work kind of like an organizational emergency call tree), we're looking at the viral equivalent of Katrina devastation.
But really, Harkin's proposal is all about - you guessed it - job creation!
The good senator chairs the Senate appropriations subcommittee on health, and says in the Reuters Health article above that his bill will "help build vaccine-manufacturing capacity and prevent production capacity from becoming idle."
Read: he's going for the biotech/pharma lobby bid here. I will rarely be this opaque with language criticizing politics, but this. Is. Disgusting.
Vaccination/Influenza Epidemiology 101 needed for Congress, stat!
And funnily enough, once again, we can learn a he*& of alot from sci-fi on this one....the book that taught me MOST about viral epidemics was NOT a school text, but rather the fiction/fantasy novel "Moreta's Ride" by Anne McCaffrey.
Species jumping bugs, flying dragons, love, loss, raging pandemics, worse-raging politics...it's got everything you need to see what can happen in a plague scenario.
If you work in a hospital, and are (cough cough) relatively open-minded, buy the book here.
After you're done reading, let me know if an "I told you so" is warranted.