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November 03, 2005

Bush bird flu plan includes windfall for pharmaceuticals giantsSF Bay Area Indymedia

It is also being exposed as a thinly disguised gift to US pharmaceutical companies that stand to profit handsomely from the production of vaccines and treatments for the bird flu under the administration’s plan, while avoiding liability for damages resulting from their operations.

Bush unveiled the “National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza” in a speech Tuesday to doctors, scientists and members of Congress at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Utilizing the phraseology common since the 9/11 terror attacks, Bush described the threat of the bird flu as “a danger to our homeland,” and urged Congress to fund his proposal.

The threat of a worldwide outbreak of avian flu is genuine. The H5N1 strain of the virus has already infected 122 people and killed 62 in four countries—Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia—and has contaminated poultry flocks across wide stretches of Asia and into Europe.

While up to now most human victims appear to have been infected directly from birds, the danger is that the deadly virus could mutate into a form easily transmittable between humans. A recent Science magazine article stated that according to expert opinion the odds of an eventual global outbreak are “100 percent,” posing a danger to millions of lives.

Critics have decried Bush’s “crash program” as too little, too late. Dr. Allan Rosenfield, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York, told Reuters, “It should have happened five years ago.” To put the $7.1 billion figure into perspective, it is close to the amount spent by the US in a month on the war in Iraq. It is also less than the $8-billion flu preparedness plan passed recently by the Senate.

It is also a fraction of the $70 billion in additional tax cuts for the wealthy that Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress are preparing to enact.

The Bush administration’s “National Strategy” to fight an avian flu pandemic is not only woefully inadequate, but promises windfall profits to the giant pharmaceutical interests while leaving cash-strapped state and local authorities financially responsible for implementing large portions of the plan.

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Posted by dymaxion at November 3, 2005 12:34 PM

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