Is the United States, or the world, in danger of a pandemic influenza outbreak? There have been 3 worldwide pandemics in the last century. Experts cannot give a definitive answer as to whether there will be another outbreak. President George W. Bush, however, recently outlined a $7.1-billion strategy to prepare the nation for the likelihood of a worldwide outbreak. A majority of the spending the president is seeking from Congress would be earmarked toward research and a stockpile of vaccines and antiviral drugs to protect Americans from the current strain of the avian flu.
Under the president's plan, $2.8 billion would be allocated for researching more dependable and quicker ways to develop vaccines, $1.2 billion for the government to purchase enough doses of the vaccine against the current strain of the avian flu, and $1 billion to store more antiviral drugs (eg, Roche Laboratories Inc's Tamiflu). The government has also instructed Americans not to stockpile Tamiflu because it will hurt federal efforts to reserve enough medication to treat individuals who really need it. Roche recently stopped shipments of Tamiflu to US pharmacies because of concern about hoarding.