Progress for tomorrow: Preparing for the next disaster
INGLESBY: What did he mean by that?
KELLERMAN: Oh, he just meant the only way a politician can escape this situation would be to not spend any resources and have no catastrophe occur. If you spend a lot of money - many in this room will remember the political fiasco of swine flu. I still believe that people made the right decision at the right time, faced with an equally devastating prospect, and they got crucified for it because swine flu did not turn out to be the next global pandemic. So they paid a dear price for doing the right thing. If you don't take action and a terrible epidemic happens, then, boy, are you really in trouble then. So the only way you could get out of it if you were a federal official would be to get real lucky. But I for one don't want to rely on a faith-based initiative and pray that nothing happens. [Laughter.] I think we have to be ready.
HEALY: If you remember swine flu, which is a very interesting thing to bring up, you had Doctors Salk and Sabin, who were on the committee. They both told President Ford, this has got to be a presidential initiative; you have got to lead; we have got to get the public vaccinated. They went into production, they had the vaccine, and of course the side effects of the vaccine, the Gulliain-Barré and the neurological cases, made that backfire, in addition to the fact that the swine flu did not materialize.
Now, the person who really got the heat, which is what you said, is President Gerald Ford. In retrospect, was he right or was he wrong?
ATKINSON: You know, before I give you a quick answer on that one
HEALY: It has to be short.
ATKINSON: I think you've got to have courage to lead when people are second-guessing what you do. And whether you're an elected official, whether you're a health official, every day you make choices and those choices might seem bureaucratic but the reality is they
HEALY: You've got to answer the question.
HEALY: We're talking about President Ford, right or wrong. Was it the right decision, the wrong decision or should he
ATKINSON: Right decision.
HEALY: What about
BENJAMIN: Right initial decision, but the problem was they didn't monitor the situation and make a mid-course correction, which would have prevented them, probably, from going down that path.
KELLERMAN: Right decision. Jim Senser made the right decision as well.
HEALY: All right.
INGLESBY: I think the right decision. I think the extent to which they actually used the vaccine to make enough to make a swine flu vaccine on a crash course like that was the absolutely right decision. Whether to vaccinate to the extent they did, you know, that's kind of at the margins.
HEALY: All right, now, then let's get back to Tamiflu, and there is a broad issue that I want to raise here. If we look at we heard the secretary this morning talk about Tamiflu and the stockpiling that the federal government is doing HHS. Now, the reported numbers for Tamiflu if you look at Europe, Western Europe, you will see that the numbers for stockpiling Tamiflu are in the range of 40 to 50 percent of the population. I think Switzerland, France, even Great Britain, they are pushing those numbers.