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A Big Step Towards Making America Safer
August 19, 2010
By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
In the spring of 2009, when a new influenza virus began circulating across North America, scientists across HHS launched an effort to identify the new strain and begin working on a vaccine to combat it. By pushing the limits of the system, we were able to develop and produce an H1N1 vaccine in record time. Yet, despite unprecedented coordination between the CDC, FDA, and NIH, our response was not as effective as it could have been because we were fighting the 2009 H1N1 virus with technology from the 1950s.
In part due to our experience with H1N1, last December, I called on our Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to launch a review of our ability to respond to not only the threat of a new infectious disease, but also to threats such as bioterrorism.
Today, we are releasing a report that discusses our findings. You can read the report right here.
The report discusses ways we can develop and produce “medical countermeasures” -- vaccines, antivirals, antibiotics, diagnostics, and medical equipment -- safely, quickly, and effectively, and envisions a nation with “the nimble, flexible capacity to produce Medical Countermeasures rapidly in the face of any attack or threat, known or unknown, including a novel, previously unrecognized, naturally occurring emerging infectious disease.”
Our greatest responsibility in government is keeping the American people safe. That’s why, although our official countermeasure review concludes today, the process of improving our public health preparedness goes on.