Friday, April 08, 2005

Urgency and accountability

Yesterday DHHS Secretary Mike Leavitt spoke on preparing against pandemic influenza at the National Academy of Sciences. Medical News Today has the text. I won't summarize it here because it is the usual self-serving list of alleged preparations and accomplishments. You can read it yourself at the link.

In it, Leavitt says he is now being briefed on a daily basis. It is hard to escape the new sense of urgency that has finally--finally--crept into administration statements about the threat of pandemic influenza. Knowledgeable CDC personnel have expressed it in the past only to have the urgency fade away or get canceled out the next day by a reassuring statement.

So that's good. But we also have this:
I am sure that most of you have seen the HHS draft Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan we released last August, and I know that many of you have submitted comments. We're grateful for all of your input. I expect we will have the next revision out in the next few months. I am hopeful that the discussions and deliberations at this important meeting will feed into this effort.
Yes, we've seen it. It is a pathetic pile of steaming generalities. Still in draft form after 6 months and not expected to be finalized for several more.

The signs of life we are seeing from the Bush Administration are welcome. But they are at least a year late. While this administration chased phantom WMDs, a real Virus of Mass Destruction was incubating and they did almost nothing. If a pandemic is really materializing, their inattention, failure of the imagination and outright incompetence and negligence will cost many more lives than the WTC tragedy. And will they be held accountable?