The Bush administration's plan for apandemic flu gave Congress an opportunityto criticize health officials aboutwhy it has taken so long and abouttheir spending priorities. Governmenthealth officials began working on aplan in 1991.
Health and Human Services SecretaryMichael Leavitt said that the 1997outbreak of the avian flu in HongKong was a warning for the future.Because the flu is spreading throughoutAsia and in Europe, health officialsare concerned.
Sen Tom Harkin (D, Iowa) took issuewith state governments being forced tobuy close to 31 million doses of antiviraldrugs planned for the nationalstockpile. The plan calls for states topay up to 75% of the cost of thosedrugs. Although Leavitt backed the fluplan, he said that state contributionscould be negotiated. Of the $7.1-billionappropriation the Bush administrationis requesting, $100 millionwould be allocated to state and localhealth departments to help them completetheir own flu plans. Critics arguethe amount is not sufficient.