US To buy 50 million N-95 Respirators as part of Updated Pandemic Flu Planning
The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, posted online (www.pandemicflu.gov) this month (March 13th) a 12-page update on the US Pandemic Influenza Plan that includes purchase this year of 50 million N-95 respirators. Other non-pharmaceutical countermeasures for a future flu pandemic to be stockpiled this year by the US include 6,000 ventilators, 50 million surgical masks and an unstated number of face shields, gloves, and gowns.
countermeasures are a welcome addition to the
plan by Health and Human Services (HHS) also reported that this month over 14
million courses (not doses) of the anti-flu drugs "Tamiflu" (oral
capsules) and "Relenza" (an inhaled drug) had been purchased. Thus,
the total national stockpile has been increased to almost 20 million
courses. The overall
information is contained in this document on pre-pandemic vaccines (e.g.,
against the two current clades of H5N1 virus) and future pandemic flu
vaccine(s) (that can only be made after a pandemic flu virus appears in the
world). Most immediately notable, HHS Secretary Leavitt noted that the
Additional pre-pandemic and pandemic vaccine issues addressed in this update include development and funding for research of cell-culture based influenza vaccines, liability protection for the vaccine industry, new FDA written guidance (posted on the FDA website www.fda.gov) on criteria for clinical development and licensure of avian and pandemic flu vaccines, and recognition of the importance of "antigen-sparing" vaccines that use vaccine adjuvants or are given intradermally (ID) rather than intramuscularly (IM).
Overall, this 12-page document is a very practical and useful update on multiple fronts in the preparedness effort against the future pandemic influenza. In particular, the purchase of 50 million N-95 respirators is critically important.
Stockpiling of N-95s and fit-testing of emergency response personnel has been repeatedly advocated by this author over the past 24 months, since coordinating the purchase of approximately 500,000 N-95 respirators (and 2.5 million surgical masks) by the Washington, DC Department of Health in anticipation of both natural threats (e.g., pandemic flu, another SARS-like virus, others) and bioterrorism threats (smallpox, genetically-engineered threats, reaerosolized anthrax over large urban areas, and others).
Daniel R. Lucey, MD, MPH
Director, Center for Biologic Countermeasures and Emerging Diseases
Co-Director, Master of Science Program in
Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases