An internationally known virologist with a military background explained to Breitbart News the United States is vulnerable to potential pandemics due to production of vaccines overseas and a lack of interest in making significant changes to the National Pandemic Plan.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, Steven Hatfill, MD, a virologist with master’s degrees in microbial genetics, radiation biochemistry, and experimental pathology, said there are precautions the U.S. can take to improve its preparedness for a potential pandemic.
Hatfill does not put his faith in large bureaucratic organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The WHO are useless,” he told Breitbart News in a telephone interview. “These are the same people who gave us the 2014 Ebola pandemic. Absolutely useless. The bureaucrats are subject to the wishes of their subscribers – China puts pressure on them.”
“And they admit it. They admitted the other day that, yes, they delayed too long,” he said. “I don’t listen to anything they say.”
As Breitbart News reported Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus blamed “human error” for the U.N. agency’s initial decision to minimize the global threat of the deadly coronavirus.
For the U.S., Hatfill said the next seven to 14 days are critical.
“I had thought because we hadn’t had any new cases in the U.S. in days, my goodness, could we have dodged a bullet?” he continued. “And, now, we have a case in Chicago in the last couple of days.”
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first case of the coronavirus that has been transmitted from human to human in the U.S. in Chicago. The patient lives with a woman who had been diagnosed with the virus after she visited Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the infection.
Hatfill said one of the major problems for the U.S. is that vaccines used in this country are made overseas.
“Because it’s cheaper,” he said. “You think the British are going to give us a vaccine? Before they vaccinate their own people?”
Hatfill complimented President Donald Trump, however.
“The president is a smart cookie,” he observed. “Last year, he signed some legislation to bring domestic vaccine production back to the United States, realizing that this was a national security issue.”
In September 2019, Trump issued an executive order directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to overhaul seasonal flu vaccine production.
The White House said in a statement:
Unfortunately, many of the vaccines we use today are produced overseas, using time-consuming, egg-based technology, which limits their effectiveness and makes production too slow to effectively combat a potential deadly influenza pandemic.
In addition to the U.S. making its own vaccines, Hatfill said there must be drastic changes to the National Pandemic Plan.
In November, 2019, Hatfill co-authored the book Three Seconds Until Midnight, with Robert Coullahan, CEM and John Walsh, Jr., Ph.D., that urged an effort to improve the National Pandemic Plan.
“A pandemic is nothing more than a series of local epidemics,” he told Breitbart News. “If a local community can handle its own epidemic, then a nation can handle its pandemic, with a little help.”
“Here’s how the National Pandemic Plan works,” he said:
The government will do everything they can to have vaccines and give it to the States. The States will get it to the area communities. And that’s where it falls apart. There’s no rapid distribution plan for most local authorities. There’s no medical surge planning. There’s no alternate care site pre-selection and cooperative agreement. You’re not going to get surrounding areas to help you.
Hatfill said “low resource communities” usually suffer the worst with outbreaks of infectious disease. These communities have the highest mortality rates and local hospitals tend to get flooded with cases, he explained.
“They have more pre-existing co-morbidities, heart disease, COPD, Type II diabetes,” he said. “Actually, if we had a vaccine right now, in very limited supply, these communities should probably get it first.”
Though Hatfill said what is happening in Wuhan, China – the epicenter of the current infection – could be compared to the 1918 influenza pandemic, he stressed that the seriousness of the coronavirus in the U.S. is “not yet” at that level.
“Even in 1918, the majority of people got better,” he noted.
“However, when you’re dealing with such an infection rate and millions of people are infected, you could see how even a small percent fatality rate could quickly become overwhelming,” he explained. “And, if you want an example, just look at Philadelphia in 1918. The majority of people got better. But, my goodness, entire families died, bodies were lying in the street. It looked like West Africa with Ebola.”
Hatfill spelled out some of what he considers to be the major issues in the U.S. healthcare system that could be disastrous in a pandemic situation:
It becomes a question of sheer numbers when you have this amount of people. We don’t have enough healthcare workers – we’re 50,000 workers short. In a 1918-style event coronavirus, whatever pathogen you want to use, our local hospitals are going to have to be able to do a 200 percent increase in hospital beds, and a 400 percent increase in ICU beds. But, our local authorities are not prepared. We’ve got to start getting these local authorities ready for this.
Asked about the recent Rasmussen poll that found 72 percent of Americans are confident in the U.S. public health system’s ability to contain the spread of the coronavirus within the country, Hatfill remarked, “Before I started my research on our book, I was confident that we would be able to handle something like this.”
He said, however, when he began to look at the National Pandemic Plan, he was not finding an impressive blueprint, and assumed there “must be another secret plan” somewhere else.
“And I kept going and asking questions and found out that, yes, that was the plan,” he explained. “We misjudged the ability of local authorities. And things are getting worse. They’re not getting better. The number of available hospital beds is dropping.”