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Congress approves $7.65 billion for pandemic flu response

June 23, 2009
by Robert Roos
CIDRAP News

Responding to lobbying by the Obama administration and public health advocates, Congress last week approved $7.65 billion for battling pandemic influenza, more than three times what the House and Senate had earlier proposed.

Meanwhile, a coalition of public health groups led by Trust for America's Health (TFAH), a nonpartisan public health advocacy organization based in Washington, DC, also urged Congress to adopt the House version and add more funds to it. The coalition was particularly concerned about the cost of buying and administering pandemic vaccines.

In substantially increasing the funding, Congress decided not to take funds from the stimulus and BioShield programs, according to Richard Hamburg, government relations director for TFAH. Some public health advocates had criticized the proposal to take money from BioShield, a program that promotes development of medical countermeasures against biological and other unconventional weapons.

"This contingency fund of $5.8 billion would be new money," Hamburg said. "I think it was good news that they appropriated additional dollars to be used mainly for vaccine purchase and perhaps vaccine administration, and that it was new money and not coming from existing sources."

"In the long run they'll need even more dollars, but this is a recognition that should there be a more extreme outbreak in the coming months, we'll be better prepared than we would've been without additional dollars," he said.

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