Friday, November 16, 2007

Obama: A Record Fighting Avian Flu

Cross-posted on DailyKos, MyBO, Populista and One Million Strong

When you saw this you might have said "Avian Flu? Who cares about Avian Flu?" But people should care about Avian Flu, and it's a perfect example of how Barack Obama gets things done on issues that may not seem glamorous but could affect the life's of millions of people. Barack Obama has been a leader in the Senate on Avian Flu and has worked hard to implement solutions. He has a quite impressive record on this issue and I urge you to look even further into it but I'll try to summarize it best I can.


March 10, 17
One of Obama's first accomplishments in the Senate was successfully attaching an amendment to S. 600, the Foreign Relations Committee Authorization Act, that (1) authorizes $25 million for international efforts to combat the avian influenza (1/4 of an appeal by the World Heath Organization – the traditional U.S. share) and (2) calls on the President to stand up an inter-agency task force to President should establish an interagency task force composed of representatives of the Department of State, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, and other appropriate agencies to immediate address this issue. A week later he successfully attached that amendment into the final Senate Budget.

April 28th
Senator Obama introduces the first comprehensive bill to address the threat of an avian influenza pandemic, AVIAN Act (S. 969). It didn't pass but he picked up 9 co-sponsors for the bill including Republican Sen Richard Lugar. A companion bill was introduced in the House (H.R. 3369). From the CRS it:

-Amends the Public Health Service Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit to the Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) a proposal related to establishing a Pandemic Fund for countries affected by pandemic influenza.

-Establishes the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Policy Coordinating Committee to develop an Interagency Preparedness Plan.

-Requires the Secretary to strengthen, expand, and coordinate domestic pandemic influenza preparedness activities.

-Requires states to have an approved state preparedness plan as a condition of receiving funds related to bioterrorism from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

-Requires the Secretary, acting through the Director of CDC and the Administrator of HRSA, to integrate and coordinate public and private influenza surveillance activities.

-Directs the Secretary to: (1) procure doses of antivirals and developed vaccines needed during pandemic influenza for the Strategic National Stockpile; and (2) assist other counties in preparation for, and response to, pandemic influenza. Allows the Secretary to provide vaccines, antiviral medications, and supplies from the Stockpile to foreign countries.

- Requires the Secretary to develop and disseminate pandemic influenza training curricula for health professionals and non-medical volunteers.

-Requires the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Director of CDC to expand and intensify influenza research.

-Directs the Secretary to contract with the Institute of Medicine to study topics related to the pandemic influenza.

-Establishes the National Pandemic Influenza Economics Advisory Committee.

-Requires the Secretary of Agriculture to expand and intensify efforts to prevent pandemic influenza.

June 6th
Pen's a op-ed in the New York Times with Richard Lugar, then Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In the op-ed "Grounding a Pandemic" they detail the threat:

An outbreak could cause millions of deaths, destabilize Southeast Asia (its likely place of origin), and threaten the security of governments around the world.

Put it in perspective:

The precedent that experts fear is the 1918 flu pandemic, which began in the American Midwest and swept the planet in the era before air travel, killing 20 million to 40 million people. As John M. Barry, author of "The Great Influenza," has observed, "Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS has killed in 24 years."

And offer a few suggestions:

International health experts believe that Southeast Asia will be an epicenter of influenza for decades. We recommend that this administration work with Congress, public health officials, the pharmaceutical industry, foreign governments and international organizations to create a permanent framework for curtailing the spread of future infectious diseases.

Among the parts of that framework could be these:

Increasing international disease surveillance, response capacity and public education and coordination, especially in Southeast Asia.

Stockpiling enough antiviral doses to cover high-risk populations and essential workers.

Ensuring that, here at home, Health and Human Services and state governments put in place plans that address issues of surveillance, medical care, drug and vaccine distribution, communication, protection of the work force and maintenance of core public functions in case of a pandemic.

Accelerating research into avian flu vaccines and antiviral drugs.

Establishing incentives to encourage nations to report flu outbreaks quickly and full

July 19th
Gives a speech on the Senate floor in support Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill due to the Avian Flu amendments of his included. Full text here.

August 9th
Writes to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt and asks the Bush administration to immediately begin creating a stockpile of avian flu vaccines and antivirals sufficient to protect 25 percent of the U.S. population. Press release and full text of the letter here.

September 29th
Obama works with Democratic leaders Harkin and Reid among others to get the Senate approve a amendment that would appropriate $3.9 billion in emergency funds for pandemic flu preparedness funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

October 4th
Thirty-three Senators including Obama sign a letter to President Bush encouraging him to release the final Pandemic Influenza Plan without further delay, allocate the resources necessary to address the threat and take the steps necessary to protect the American people.

October 5th
Obama works with Harry Reid and other Senate Democrats to introduce comprehensive legislation (S. 1821) to help America prepare for and protect from a possible Avian flu pandemic. the bill would:

* Prepare for a pandemic by finalizing, implementing and funding pandemic preparedness and response plans.
* Improve surveillance and international partnerships to monitor the spread of avian flu and detect the emergence of a flu strain with pandemic potential immediately.
* Protect Americans through the development, production and distribution of an effective vaccine.
* Plan ahead for a pandemic by stockpiling antivirals, vaccines and other essential medications and supplies.
* Strengthen our public health infrastructure. Inform Americans by increasing awareness and education about pandemic flu.
* Commit to protecting Americans by devoting adequate resources to pandemic preparedness.

October 7th
A group of Senators including Obama, wrote to Secretary Leavitt asking him to why the federal government has fallen so far behind other nations that have ordered enough antiviral medication to treat between 20 and 40 percent of the their populations. The letter asked how the Secretary plans to secure enough antivirals to protect a large portion of Americans in a timely manner given the limited production capacity of those antivirals believed to be effective against avian flu. To this day Leavitt has not yet responded to this letter.

October 13
Candida Wolff, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, responds to the October 4th letter with a letter thanking the Senators for their comments but failed to explain when or how the President would focus on the problem.

October 27th
The Senate approved an amendment offered by Senator Harkin and Obama that would add $8 billion to the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill to improve the country’s readiness for a potential pandemic flu outbreak.

November 1st
Obama holds a Avian Flu Press Conference. Remarks here.

There. I hope that gives you a nice summery on his work on Avian Flu and I think this is a good example of just what he's good at, tackling less glamorous issues like Avian Flu, Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Ethics Reform, Public Financing of Elections and so on. They may not make Wolf Blitzer and Tim Russert happy but they are what we need.

If you want that kind of leadership and/or want to fly to Iowa and spend a day with him. Donate and help him reclaim a day from big dollar donors to spend in Iowa, talking about the issues.

Reclaim a day

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