A multimillion-dollar government plan to stockpile vaccines throughout the country so civilians could fight germ attacks is deeply flawed, The New York Times reported Friday.
Federal and private experts said the plan was hastily developed amid fears of threats from Iraq and germ terrorists and is ill-conceived, according to the Times.President Clinton announced the vaccine stockpile plan May 22 during a graduation ceremony at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Two weeks later, he asked Congress to authorize spending $51 million to develop "a civilian stockpile of antidotes, antibiotics and vaccines."
The Times report reviewed events leading to the president's decision:
- Two men who stood to gain financially from the decision attended a presidential meeting in which seven scientists endorsed the stockpile plan.
- Drug industry leaders were not adequately consulted about whether they could fulfill the president's pledge.
- Disagreements among scientists and military officials on acquiring vaccines were overlooked.
Some government officials want to use antibiotics to defend against possible germ attacks and diminish the role of vaccines. Others say offering vaccines offers little protection against other such deadly threats as anthrax and smallpox.
A Senate hearing on the vaccine stockpile plan is planned for the fall.