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Senate Approves Burr's Bioterrorism Bill - Critics warn about the effects of 'secret vaccine production'


After almost two years of negotiations, the Senate passed a bill last night sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., that would create a new federal agency to combat bioterrorism.

The bill to establish the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has been a priority of Burr's since his first day in the Senate. After the vote last night, Burr said he was "excited" that the bill had finally passed.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., a co-sponsor of the bill, agreed in a statement released yesterday afternoon that the bill was critically needed.

"Today, we face the possibility of a pandemic or bioterrorist attack, which could be as bad as Hurricane Katrina in every community in America. We know that we are not yet ready for a catastrophe of that scale," Kennedy said, indicating that this bill would help prepare for such events.

The bill, commonly referred to as BARDA, passed by unanimous consent.

The House passed a similar bill earlier this year. It is unlikely that the differences between the two bills will be ironed out in a conference committee by Friday, Congress' target date for adjournment.

The House could, however, decide to take up the bill as a new, stand-alone bill, which means that Burr's proposal could be sent straight to the president. If the House doesn't do that, the bill would be dead for this year, he said.

Highlights of BARDA include the creation of a new position within the Department of Health and Human Services that would be solely responsible for the oversight of vaccine production and decide what medications would be distributed.

Barbara Loe Fisher, the president of the National Vaccine Information Center, has been an outspoken critic of the bill. She was unaware that the bill had been passed by the Senate last night but said she's worried about the effects "secret vaccine production" could have on the American public. "This is an extremely dangerous precedent that is being set," she said.

But Burr said that the majority of concerns regarding freedom of information had been dealt with and that there was little secrecy involved.

• Mary M. Shaffrey can be reached in Washington at 202-662-7672 or at mshaffrey@wsjournal.com.


It is almost a done deal. The Senate has voted and the House will soon vote on a bill to create BARDA, a new and very powerful agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that will partner with drug companies to make experimental vaccines and drugs. The actions of the agency and the way these experimental drugs and vaccines are made, what they will contain, and how reactive they are, will be hidden from the public. Under the guise of "protecting national security," citizens will be prevented through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from being able to obtain information about most of what BARDA is doing.

In the future, when the Secretary of Health and Human Services declares a public health "emergency" under Bioshield and other federal and state legislation passed since Sept. 11, 2001, Americans could be quarantined and forced to use experimental drugs and vaccines and have no recourse to the civil justice system if they are injured by them. Congress has already given complete liability protection to drug companies and those who order citizens to take drugs and vaccines during a declared public health "emergency."

The individual appointed to head BARDA will be one of the most powerful individuals in the U.S.. Congress has already given the Secretary of Health and Human Services, also a political appointee, unprecedented power. The militarization of the civilian public health system with unchecked power residing in the hands of unelected government health officials, who have no accountability to or oversight by the public, is a serious threat to freedom and public safety.

For more information about the possible consequences of the Bioshield laws and the pending BARDA legislation, go to www.nvic.org homepage ("Liability Shield Given to Pharma") and read NVIC's letter to Senate staffer Col. Robert Kadlec, M.D.

The House vote to approve BARDA could take place before this Friday, Dec. 8. If you want to let your Congressperson know how you feel about BARDA, call him or her at 202-224-3121. Go to www.house.gov to find information about your Congressperson.