Sequester Saturday – ‘NIH Director On Sequestration: ‘God Help Us If We Get A Worldwide Pandemic’
BETHESDA, Md. — ‘In his first-floor office in the main building of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins’
‘An already stagnant budget was made worse this spring when Congress and the White House failed to prevent sequestration. The NIH was forced to cut $1.7 billion from its budget by the end of September, lowering its purchasing power about 25 percent, compared with 2003’.
‘Roughly six months into sequestration, however, the situation is worse than predicted’.
‘Internal NIH estimates show that it will end up cutting more than the 700 research grants the institutes initially planned to sacrifice in the name of austerity’.
‘If lawmakers fail to replace sequestration at the end of September, that number could rise above 1,000 as the NIH absorbs another 2 percent budget cut on top of the 5 percent one this fiscal year’.
“It is so unimaginable that I would be in a position of somehow saying that this country is unable to see the rationality of covering what biomedicine can do,” Collins said, in an interview with The Huffington Post. “But I’m not sure from what I see right now that rationality carries the day.”
‘The real-world implications of irrationality, Collins added, are quite grave’.
‘His most vivid example is the flu vaccine, which he says could be as close as five years away from discovery’.
‘NIH officials are working to insulate that program from budget cuts. But sequestration will, at the very least, mean that research goes slower than it could’.
“If you want to convert this into real meaningful numbers, that means people are going to die of influenza five years from now because we don’t yet have the universal vaccine,” he said.
“And God help us if we get a worldwide pandemic that emerges in the next five years, which takes a long time to prepare a vaccine for. If we had the universal vaccine, it would work for that too’.
“The clock’s been ticking on the potential of the next eruption of a pandemic outbreak from South Asia or wherever. And we’ve gotten lucky so far [that it hasn’t happened]. But are we going to stay lucky? So, how can you justify doing anything other than pulling out all the stops in that kind of circumstance? And yet we’re prevented from doing so.”
From : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/23/nih-director-sequestration_n_3804089.html