Letter to Rep. Jim Moran (D VA) on H5N1 "Bird Flu" Vaccine Manufacturer Downstream Liability


March 14, 2006


Dear Rep. Moran:


I suspect you are aware of the alarming reports about the likely spread of H5N1 avian flu to the United States through migratory birds from Russia across the Bering Sea to Alaska and North America this spring.


Discussion about the ability of American agriculture to protect domestic poultry is encouraging, but there are many alarmist reports about the likelihood of a mutation to a human-human contagious form and the staggering economic impact of a major epidemic. Conceivably many industries (such as those predicated on people assembling in public spaces)  could be destroyed and financial stability undermined in worst case scenarios of an extended deadly epidemic of contagious H5N1 disease. Some reports this week from ABC News (and available at abcnews.com) are particularly alarming.  


Parallels with the 1918 flu may be misleading. It is likely that H5N1 would become milder if it accommodates to human hosts.


Nevertheless, this time, there is no excuse for the vaccine industry to be caught short this time.


How much progress has been made in relieving vaccine manufacturers of downstream liability for illnesses allegedly related to a vaccine (as with the 1976 Swine Flu)? Although the Internet shows that results from preliminary trials of H5N1 vaccines are encouraging, new vaccines have to be developed as the virus mutates, and it is essential to be able to mass produce the vaccine quickly. It might be possible to produce vaccines more rapidly with partial H5B1 protein molecular markers. Conceivably, it could be necessary to inoculate most Americans as early as next winter. Can this be done?


Please let me know how much progress Congress is making on this vital issue.


See later letter in May 2006 with response.


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