CHHS Director discusses development of an Anthrax vaccine

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Michael Greenberger, the founder and director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Health and Homeland Security in Baltimore, said this isn’t hype.

"We went through a phase sometime after Sept. 11 where people forgot about terrorism as a threat," he said.

Of the people exposed to anthrax-laced mailed in 2001, five victims died. And the government spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the clean-up of the facilities, according to documents.

A recent "report card" issued by the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism gave the nation an "F" in preparedness for a biological attack. The commission, led by former U.S. senators Bob Graham, D-Fla., and Jim Talent, R-Mont., stated in January that "it is more likely than not" that a weapon of mass destruction will be used somewhere in the world in the next three years.

"Nearly a decade after September 11, 2001, one year after our original report, and one month after the Christmas Day bombing attempt, the United States is failing to address several urgent threats, especially bioterrorism," Graham said in a statement. "Each of the last three Administrations has been slow to recognize and respond to the biothreat. But we no longer have the luxury of a slow learning curve, when we know al Qaeda is interested in bioweapons."

Greenberger said he believes the commission’s recent remarks were intended as a wake-up call to Congress, the current administration and even civilians.

"The point is we’re here with the country running huge deficits, especially because of the financial bailout, but this is an important effort (to fund)," he said. "The result is if you have an effective vaccine, it makes the weapon insignificant. And who knows – there could be a time when we’d all be vaccinated for the current biopathogen."

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