1) Many of the necessary steps involved in preparing for a flu pandemic, such as surge production capacity, can be used to produce ‘ordinary’ flu vaccines.
2) Once a surveillance system is developed, it can be ‘repurposed’ for other threats as needed. This has happened several times, in different countries.
3) As Revere notes, Fumento’s real target is government spending. When will we see Fumento’s column about the foolish biodefense priorities, which have been a catastrophe for public health? Not only has biodefenese removed funding and personnel from routine, but vital, public health functions, but it has also seriously warped biomedical and public health research priorities. For example, five people have been killed in bioterrorism attacks. Every half-hour, five people die from hospital-acquired bacteria infections. Will Fumento attack the bioterrorism chicken little?
[Crickets. Sun rises, sun sets]
Didn’t think so.
4) Related to #3, Fumento isn’t interested in public health. If he were, he would be concerned about the influenza epidemic that happens every year, and the unwillingness to stop most of the deaths (70% vaccination of 5-18 year olds would reduce the mortality by 80%, and save roughly 30,000 lives per year). But that would require government intervention, and The Gummint Is Evil.
We can argue about public health priorities (avian flu isn’t my top priority personally). But that argument also requires intellectual honesty by the participants. When your goal is not improving public health, but, instead, pushing a radical anti-government ideology (except when sending our fellow citizens off to die in a travesty of an occupation), you are not being an honest player. If Fumento thinks $3.6 billion is being wasted on avian influenza, he should state where that money could be better used (I did above). Otherwise, he just should not be taken seriously.
an aside: If Fumento argues that there aren’t any unmet public health needs, then he is truly hacktacular.