APIC commends President Bush and the administration for their commitment to addressing the threat of pandemic influenza. We applaud the components of the plan, including an emphasis on production and acquisition of vaccine and antivirals, as well as the commitment to global surveillance.
We have worked vigorously to encourage a comprehensive approach to pandemic and public health preparedness that will limit the potential human and economic loss. The Presidents strategy provides a strong foundation for this type of coordinated effort.
This plan is an important first step and the appropriate level of attention. We encourage the President to sustain this heightened focus and work with state and local governments, the healthcare profession, private business and the American public to resolve additional key issues, including:
-- State and local funding. We endorse incentives that encourage state and local entities to buy into the process. But we urge the President to recognize the very real possibility that if these entities are required to use scarce resources to support this plan, existing programs may be supplanted. If states and local municipalities are forced to shift resources from valuable programs to meet the needs outlined in this plan, it could result in further erosion rather than a strengthening of our public health infrastructure.
-- Surge capacity. In recent years, our healthcare and public health infrastructures have been decimated. This is an excellent opportunity to provide new money to help state and local entities build their capacities to expand beyond normal services so that they can meet the increased demand for qualified personnel, medical care, surveillance, and other activities in the event of a pandemic or other large-scale public health emergencies or disasters.
-- Healthcare and medical equipment. Healthcare professionals who will be charged with responding to emergencies must have the equipment and resources to protect themselves so that they can do their jobs. We must make sure there is an adequate supply of the most basic healthcare equipment, masks, gloves and gowns, as well as ventilators and other critical technology.
-- Effectiveness and supply of vaccines and antivirals. We all hope a silver bullet is found that will weaken the impact of a pandemic. Although we applaud the work being done to develop and acquire anti-virals, we have many questions about their effectiveness with H5N1 (avian influenza) and other strains that may be emerging.
-- Communications strategy and infrastructure. The inclusion of a thorough pandemic pre-crisis communication planincluding information on how to alert the public of a potential pandemic with educational material on how individuals can begin to protect themselveswould strengthen the overall effort.
APIC is prepared to roll up its sleeves and play a leadership role in bringing together disparate parties so that we can work together on a thorough approach to the threat before us. We need to foster a collaborative, nonpartisan approach that brings all the important players to the table.