WASHINGTON – In the event of a flu pandemic or a bioterrorism attack, drugs in the future could arrive via door-to-door postal carriers or from the fire station down the street, Health and Human Services Secretary
Mike Leavitt said Tuesday.
Leavitt, in an interview with Associated Press reporters and editors, said it’s clear the current system of delivering medicines is inadequate in case of a major emergency, and he suggested possible options for the future.
Leavitt said the government was looking to stockpile 20 million doses of a bird flu vaccine and another 20 million doses of Tamiflu, an antiviral medication to treat the disease.
The vaccine, in human clinical trials, has created an immune response in those who have taken it, he said. Still to be determined, he said, is how much is necessary to produce a sufficient response.
Leavitt said the government’s goal is to have the medicine delivered within 12 hours of a decision.
"We’re finding that the distribution systems are not adequate to put medicines in the hands of people fast enough, so we’re beginning to look at alternative ways to speed that up," Leavitt said.
"We’re looking at having more points of distribution, for example. We’re experimenting with having the Postal Service be able to deliver them, because they walk those routes every day."
He said other possibilities included using firehouses as distribution points.
Okay, before you start with the postal service jokes, this model has some real advantages, and kudos to the HHS for thinking outside the ‘Health Department’ box. I don’t know about the vaccine (I cannot imagine the havoc mailing injectable vaccines would cause), but the Tamiflu distribution is a good idea.
With surveillance during an outbreak, the HHS could leverage USPS distribution by zip codes in a ring around an outbreak, one of the epidemiologic ideas to halt the spread of a disease. This makes sense!
I can’t wait to hear the Letter Carrier: "I’m from the Government and I’m here to help you".