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Congress Must Recognize Threat Of H7N9 Pandemic

“While Congress is preoccupied with the shortcomings of Obamacare and the mangled launch of Healthcare.gov, another disaster is brewing that deserves the immediate attention of Congress,” Clare Lopez, vice president of the Intelligence Summit and a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy, writes in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” referring to the H7N9 avian flu virus that “emerged in China early this year.” She states, “In light of the deadly threat from this new and not fully understood virus, it might be expected that [HHS] would be moving aggressively to fund vaccine production as expeditiously as possible,” adding, “But, according to a report issued by Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the HHS approach is [a] laid-back one.”

“That is, even though vaccine clinical trials are underway, the decision to conduct a ‘large-scale vaccine manufacturing campaign’ depends on HHS’s assessment of the ‘risk of emergence of sustained human-to-human transmission,'” Lopez continues, adding, “In other words, once HHS decides an H7N9 pandemic is imminent, only then it will decide about ramping up vaccine production.” She concludes, “The H7N9 threat is very real, and the CDC did not mince words in its assessment of the danger. Congress must ensure BARDA gets that message before it is too late” (11/12).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.