CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees - Transcript
Wednesday, October 5, 2005
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COOPER: We've been looking tonight a lot at the bird flu. How it would be, or could become, I should say, the world's next pandemic perhaps killing millions. And how the federal government really lacks enough vaccines to treat that kind of pandemic if it does hit here. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has been urging the Bush administration to do more to prepare for and respond to a bird flu outbreak. I spoke with him earlier tonight.
COOPER: Senator Obama, if avian flu hit our shores today, are ready for it?
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) ILLINOIS: We are not ready for it. If you look at the last pandemic we had on U.S. soil, that was the Spanish flu that took place in 1918, 1919, you had literally millions of deaths. And unfortunately this is one of these situations where if you had a flu that mutated that was brand new, had human to human transmission, you could see a million deaths. You could see 10 million people hospitalized. We don't have the infrastructure or the capacity to deal with that.
COOPER: You know, there is some people who are going to hear this. And say, look, this is just like cable news hype. You know, remember the killer bees. When I was a kid, everyone was worried about killer bees coming to our shores and we weren't prepared for it. Why do you think this is real, this is different?
OBAMA: We know that every several decades you get these kinds of pandemics that sweep through the populations. We don't know that this particular bird flu will show up next year and we won't be ready. But we know that some time in the next decade or two there is going to be a pandemic, and we've got to put the infrastructure now to be prepared for it.
COOPER: And what we know about this bird flu which is ominous enough, is number one, there is a new strain. Number two, it jumps between species. The only thing yet we don't have evidence of is it easily transmissible from human to human. But if that happens, that's really the final step.
OBAMA: There are a couple of things we've got to do. Number one, we have got to have good surveillance mechanisms set up not just in this country but internationally. And I already allocated about $35 million to start cooperating with other countries on that process.
Number two, we've got to have a stockpile of antiviral drugs that cut down the fatalities so that even if you contract the disease, you don't die from it. Other countries like Great Britain have 25 to 40 percent of their population covered with their stockpiles. Right now we only have enough stockpiles for about 2 percent of our population. We have to ramp that up.
And then we have to put together an infrastructure to develop the kinds of vaccines. And figure out how we distribute those in local areas.
COOPER: To create a vaccine, you have to have an actual sample of the mutation. You are not going to have a sample of the mutation until this thing actually hits. And then when it does hit, it's going to take at least four to six months, say authorities, to actually develop enough of a vaccine to give to people. So if this thing suddenly develops, I mean there's very little to stop it from coming here.
OBAMA: Well, here's what already happened, the NIH, CDC, they have been working on a vaccine based on projections of how the current avian flu might mutate. And the problem is is that although it appears that it might be effective in providing some protection, you need much higher doses, and we don't have the production capacity for the vaccine that's currently being developed. We can probably produce about 450,000 of these vaccines.
We know that there's going to be some sort of pandemic in our lifetimes. We don't know whether this will be the big one. And I hope that people realize that if we have a sense of urgency about this, and this particular bird flu doesn't end up being a pandemic, our money's not wasted. We've got to set up the kinds of infrastructure that's required regardless of what happens with this particular strain of flu in order that we are prepared when an actual pandemic hits.
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