The United States Needs To Rethink Pandemic Preparations

From the CEO of pharmaceutical company Novartis, as reported in the New York Times
The real trial by fire for me was leading our response to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. Novartis had become the largest supplier of H1N1 vaccines to the U.S. government. We were behind, as were all companies, because we were trying to develop these vaccines in, like, six months, something that usually takes about six years. We were far enough behind that I was on calls with Kathleen Sebelius, the health secretary, and the White House, under huge amounts of pressure to figure out how to make this all happen.
It became clear that the only way to get the organization to deliver 150 million doses of vaccines was to inspire people. It was such an audacious thing to try to get all of this done. And in the end we did pretty well. We were only a couple of months later that we needed to be to get the full supply in.
Did that experience leave you hopeful or concerned about our ability to respond to a pandemic?
I remain deeply concerned. In that instance we were incredibly fortunate that the virus was not deadlier. But I think we are not at all prepared for a pandemic.
There are a couple of challenges. One is that the industry cannot make it financially sustainable to have the capacity to be ready for a pandemic, because it just sits idle. But the governments lose interest, right? So you have to invest in the long run from a public sector standpoint. If there are no pandemics for a while, then people don’t want to invest in this. So I think that remains a challenge, whether it’s pandemic influenza, Ebola, Lassa fever, Zika. We are ill prepared, and are just dodging bullets.
One of the critical issues in Washington, DC is that "nothing succeeds like failure." What that means is that nothing will be done until a pandemic occurs, taking thousands of lives. Then, our government will throw tens of billions at the problem for a few years and then lose interest until the next pandemic.

What do you do to protect your family? A great tool is Diseasecast which forecasts (like meteorologists forecast weather) where disease risk is highest. In the middle of the page you will find products selected by Ascel Bio's experts to help you best "illness-proof" your family. For instance, influenza-presentation items are here.


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