Statement by Secretary Sebelius
In the approximately three years since the start of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has continued our efforts to improve the nation?s readiness for a future influenza pandemic. It is essential that these efforts continue since influenza viruses with pandemic potential continue to spread widely in animals and sporadically infect humans, and the place and time of the next pandemic cannot be anticipated. Prior pandemic preparedness efforts and investments provided the groundwork for the 2009 H1N1 response; now those preparedness strategies and plans need to be adjusted to incorporate real world experiences and recent technological advances.
Since the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, we have collaborated with state, local, and community partners to implement innovative approaches for increasing seasonal influenza vaccination rates and addressing health disparities for minorities and at-risk individuals, such as those with disabilities. We have also invested in the advanced development of new, additional antiviral medications to add to the nation?s existing pandemic influenza medical countermeasure arsenal. Furthermore, in December 2011, the first U.S. facility to use a faster and more flexible technology to make influenza vaccine was dedicated. This facility, a public-private partnership of HHS and Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, marks the first change in influenza vaccine manufacturing in the United States in fifty years and may be able to produce 25 percent of the vaccine needed in the United States during a pandemic.