George W Bush warned that the US needed to start preparing for a pandemic, while he was still in office.
In 2005, Mr Bush gave a speech at the National Institutes of Health, where he outlined the need to prepare for a global outbreak.
“If caught early it might be extinguished with limited damage. If allowed to smoulder, undetected, it can grow to an inferno that can spread quickly beyond our ability to control it.”
“To respond to a pandemic, we need medical personnel and adequate supplies of equipment,” he said. “In a pandemic, everything from syringes to hospital beds, respirators masks and protective equipment would be in short supply.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, the chief infectious disease expert leading the US response to the pandemic, was in attendance the day of Mr Bush’s speech, as he highlighted the importance of a vaccine.
He told the audience that the manufacturing capacity needed to already be in place before an outbreak hit.
“If a pandemic strikes, our country must have a surge capacity in place that will allow us to bring a new vaccine on line quickly and manufacture enough to immunise every American against the pandemic strain,” he said.
ABC reports that the US put extra emphasis on pandemic preparations after Mr Bush’s speech, but that plans diminished as other crises took hold.
Mr Bush planned on spending $7bn on the project, but Tom Bossert, who worked in the Bush administration, told ABC that there wasn’t a strong enough commitment to keep it going.
“You need to have annual budget commitment. You need to have institutions that can survive any one administration. And you need to have leadership experience,” he said.
“All three of those can be effected by our wonderful and unique form of government in which you transfer power every four years.”