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It’s a privilege to join Senator Reid, Senator Obama, Senator Bayh and other Democratic colleagues on this legislation to improve the nation’s preparedness to deal with the danger of avian flu. I look forward to working with the chairman of our health committee, Senator Enzi and our subcommittee chairman, Senator Burr, to report legislation that includes the best proposals on preparedness, and improves research on new medications and vaccines. We need to act, because the Administration has failed to prepare adequately for a flu pandemic. The danger of a major hurricane hitting New Orleans was ignored until it was too late. We can’tmake the same mistake with pandemic flu. We can’t afford to leave preparations to chance, or wait until disaster strikes to take action. An effective plan is fundamental. I wrote to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson in January 2004, urging him to release a plan. A year and a half later, there is still no final plan. We should be implementing a flu plan now – not waiting to read it for the first time. Other nations have recognized the urgency of proper planning. Japan issued its pandemic preparedness plan in 1997. Brazil in 1999. Canada, Britain and Australia each came out with their plan over a year ago. They’re putting their plans into action right now -- but we’re still waiting for ours to be released.Around the world, nations have taken steps to stockpile enough medication to treat the victims of flu. Britain has ordered enough to treat 25 percent of the population. France has the same coverage. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and many other nations have all taken the prudent step of stockpiling these medications, but the US lags behind. We have only enough flu medicine to treat less than 2 percent of the American public. This bill addresses many of the weaknesses we suffer in preparedness. It requires the Secretary of HHS to take immediate action to finalize the national preparedness plan, to stockpile enough antiviral medications for 50% of the population, and to expand capacity for vaccine production. The bill also expands global surveillance and international cooperation, so that we can rapidly detect and rapidly contain the spread of a deadly virus. It also addresses the issue of surge capacity. Since pandemic flu is an issue of urgent national importance, our bill also creates a Director ofPandemic Preparedness and Response in the Executive Office of the President. The Director will be responsible for coordinating the nation’s efforts across the federal government and with the states. The Director will also be in charge of making sure the American public receives accurate, up-to-date information before, during and after a pandemic. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on this critical issue, and I commend Senator Reid for his leadership on this important proposal. ###