Leavitt: We're overdue for a pandemic
LEAVITT: Yes. What the White House has assembled we first put out in November a strategy that basically laid out our basic strategy, and then we have been working together as federal agencies to come up with a integrated plan for the federal government.
Now, the federal government has a clear set of unique roles. We need to develop vaccines the federal government needs to do that, and we are. We need to be involved in stockpiling antivirals and medications, and we will do so, and have done so. We need to be involved in the development of communications plans so that the best information is available. We also need to be involved in international and domestic monitoring to assure that we have the best available information. Those are unique roles of the federal government. If we were to have a person-to-person transmission, people will look for us to do screening at the borders. There are lots of things that the federal government can and must uniquely do. Every federal agency will need to be involved in that process, and the plan that you've heard spoken of is the integration of the division of labor.
But there are also needs for local plans. And I want to emphasize again that the foundation of pandemic preparedness is local planning. It has to be. It's the nature of a pandemic.
ZUCKERMAN: One quick question. I wonder if I could ask a question, take advantage here. Almost everybody that I speak to says, "Boy, I would like to get some Tamiflu." What is the status of this [laughter] of the supply of Tamiflu and similar medications? This is one thing that could be done at a very local level.
LEAVITT: Tamiflu is an antiviral medication. It is one type of antiviral that has shown effectiveness against the H5N1 virus. It's important to understand its virtues and its limits.
First, its virtues. It has shown in large in circumstances that if it is given within 24 to 48 hours at the time a person begins to manifest a system, that it has a substantial impact on the length of time people have symptoms and the nature of their symptoms. That's all very good.
The in terms of the potential downsides, there is no guarantee that Tamiflu will be effective under the mutated version of the virus, whatever it is that ultimately triggers a pandemic, and therefore, there's another it's important that it be recognized as a treatment and not as a prophylaxis. It does have a preventative quality when it's taken every day, but that would mean a person, in order to have protection, would have to take one Tamiflu tablet every day for a year. We have no idea what type of impact that would have on a human body. There's no certainty that that would be safe, and there's no certainty that it would ultimately have the desired impact.