Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 9, 2009

Thanks and looking ahead

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 9, 2009

On Friday Secretary Napolitano sent out this internal Email.

Dear Colleagues:

Our recent experience with the outbreak of the 2009 H1N1 flu reminds us that as DHS employees we have a critical role to play during public health emergencies — in this case the threat of a worldwide pandemic.

Your actions over the past two weeks were nothing short of exemplary. You helped instill confidence in the federal government’s response, provided reassurance and clear direction to the American people during a time of national concern, and demonstrated the importance of working as a unified team. Your efforts are greatly appreciated by me personally, by our many partners across government and the private sector, and Americans across the country.

On Wednesday, I announced a number of steps we will be taking to ensure that individuals, families, governments, private sector entities, and our own workforce across the Department are well prepared to meet the challenges that the H1N1 virus could pose in the future.

First and foremost, DHS and its partners in the federal response will work with the public health community and international partners to closely monitor the H1N1 flu virus to determine if it is becoming more severe than this initial outbreak. The Southern Hemisphere is entering its flu season now, and we will also monitor the virus there.

Second, DHS will consult with the Department of Health and Human Services as it works to determine the need for mass production of a vaccine, possible methods of distribution, and changing guidance designed to best slow the spread of the H1N1 virus in the U.S. The CDC has already taken the first step by isolating the H1N1 strain. Once a reference strain has been developed, CDC will share it with pharmaceutical companies who will produce an initial vaccine to test.

Third, the work of the DHS-led interagency task force will continue as the Department coordinates across the entire federal government to ensure we are doing everything we can to prepare ourselves should this virus present signs of having significant potential to disrupt the continuity of government operations, both now and in the upcoming flu season.

Fourth, our work with state, local, tribal, and territorial homeland security advisors, health officials and emergency managers will continue. DHS has conducted outreach to literally thousands of individuals on the front lines of this outbreak over the past two weeks, and will continue to do so in order to share information and solicit feedback from those on the ground.

Similarly, our dialogue with the private sector will continue to share information, address concerns, encourage communication with employees, and ensure that they have plans in place should a pandemic threaten their workforce.

Finally, we will continue to remind Americans of the important role they play in preventing the spread of influenza viruses, not only for their own health, but also for the health of the community-at-large.

Again, I want to thank you for your work in support of the response to this virus and all that you do every day to keep our nation safe.

Yours very truly,

Janet Napolitano

Secretary

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 9, 2009 @ 9:41 am

A key sentence in the above:

Second, DHS will consult with the Department of Health and Human Services as it works to determine the need for mass production of a vaccine, possible methods of distribution, and changing guidance designed to best slow the spread of the H1N1 virus in the U.S. The CDC has already taken the first step by isolating the H1N1 strain. Once a reference strain has been developed, CDC will share it with pharmaceutical companies who will produce an initial vaccine to test.

Since the reference strain mentioned above has yet to be shipped and no decision on production for probalby 30 days after shipping looks like no vaccine for H1N1 until 1st of the year (2010)!

Also looking back DHS operated with its Public Affairs operation doing its thing while CDC actually was engaged in Emergency Public Information and issuance of technical PARs (Protective Action Recommendations) to the public and media. In other words, all DHS did was to slow down what could have been distribution of highly critical information and DHS might have caused confusion instead of assisting in implementation of a coherent strategy. I was amazed to the see the size of the office of the Chief Medical Officer in DHS in buget submission and wonder now how we could find out its staffing, authority and operations and liaison with HHS/CDC etc?

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