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Pandemic-Preparedness Money Stripped from Stimulus

Pandemic-Preparedness Money Stripped from Stimulus

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, works her way through reporters to the Senate floor during deliberations on the economic stimulus bill in February. (Source: AP)

Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY

April 29, 2009

The money would have been the last installment of a $7.1 billion program initiated by then-president Bush four years ago to prepare for a threat of a global influenza outbreak. A key goal: to make enough vaccine by 2011 to cover every American within six months of a pandemic virus being identified. Congress already has approved more than $6 billion for the program.

Harkin and public-health experts, such as Thomas Inglesby of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh, said there was no sign that stripping the funds from the stimulus had significantly slowed the preparation of pandemic-flu vaccines.

“This capacity is not there yet and would not be if we had appropriated the money,” Harkin spokeswoman Kate Cyrul said in an email. “But the current outbreak reminds us that we need to be prepared.”

Harkin, chairman of a Senate panel that approves health-care spending, and Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said they would push for additional funding in a war spending bill now moving through Congress.

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