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22 April 2003

"Why America Needs Project BioShield," by Senator Judd Gregg

(Washington Times op-ed column) (640)


(This column by Senator Judd Gregg, Republican from New Hampshire, who
is chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and
Pensions, first appeared in The Washington Times April 22, 2003 and is
in the public domain. No republication restrictions.)

(begin byliner)


Why America needs Project BioShield
Judd Gregg


A year and a half ago, we watched terrorists turn an airplane filled
with innocent people into deadly a missile. These extremists turned
our free and mobile society into a weapon against us. Unfortunately,
it's only a matter of time before terrorists think of other ways to
hijack our free society and our advances in science and technology.
They will continue to look for ways to twist technology into a tool
for terror.


This is why we now believe that if there is a "next" attack it would
be in the form of a biological, chemical or radiological weapon.
Imagine an ink pen filled with a small vial of the smallpox virus
making its way through airport security and into our country. From
there it would be relatively easy to release the virus, in aerosol
form, directly into the ventilation system of a large stadium where
thousands of Americans are gathered to watch a basketball or football
game.

Smallpox could also be released in a local shopping mall or in an
airport where it could soon be spread unknowingly by passengers
throughout the entire country. Within a matter of days we would have a
major health hazard on our hands. Thanks to modern science, we have
conquered the smallpox disease and it no longer occurs naturally. But
if this virus falls into the wrong hands we would once again be
fighting a deadly and desperate battle against a full-fledged smallpox
epidemic.

The above scenario is frightening in the extreme, but it will remain
nothing more than a frightening thought if we take precautions now to
thwart chemical and biological attacks before they ever have a chance
to become a reality. That is why President Bush asked Congress in his
State of the Union Address to enact Project Bioshield. The Senate
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which I chair,
unanimously passed legislation creating Project Bioshield this spring.
The legislation now awaits action in the full Senate.

Project Bioshield is a comprehensive plan for research, development
and production, of vaccines and treatments our nation would need in
the event of a chemical, biological or radiological attack. The
legislation would meet the threat of a possible attack head-on with
immediate development and stockpiling of vaccines and pharmaceutical
drugs.

Project Bioshield will deploy our nations top scientists into the
research and development of new safer vaccines and countermeasures. It
will also allow the government to buy vast amounts of improved
vaccines, devices, and drugs for smallpox, anthrax, and botulism
toxin. The plan would also allow the FDA to quickly make available
promising treatments during emergencies.

Preparing for a bio-chemical attack can also help to prevent one. If
terrorists know we are so prepared for an attack that the effort would
little harm to our population, they will have no reason to strike. The
old adage is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

We have an obligation to be prepared for the worst and hope for the
best. Maybe that "next" attack will never come. Or maybe it will come
tomorrow. We can't know when or where the enemies of freedom may
choose to strike, but we have an obligation to make sure that we have
done all we can to be prepared and protected if they do.

(Sen. Judd Gregg, Republican from New Hampshire, is chairman of the
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.)

(end byliner)

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