My avian flu policy paper
The piece is about forty pages, here is the pdf link. Your comments are welcome, either below or by email. You already have heard bits and pieces of this: pro-intellectual property, pro-decentralization, and skeptical of quarantine and centralized stockpiles. A good plan also should prove useful for catastrophes other than avian flu. Here is the Executive Summary of the piece:
To combat a possible avian flu pandemic, we should consider the following:
1. The single most important thing we can do for a pandemic–whether
avian flu or not–is to have well-prepared local health care systems. We
should prepare for pandemics in ways that are politically sustainable
and remain useful even if an avian flu pandemic does not occur.
2. Prepare social norms and emergency procedures which would limit
or delay the spread of a pandemic. Regular hand washing, and other
beneficial public customs, may save more lives than a Tamiflu stockpile.
3. Decentralize our supplies of anti-virals and treat timely distribution as more important than simply creating a stockpile.
4. Institute prizes for effective vaccines and relax liability laws
for vaccine makers. Our government has been discouraging what it should
5. Respect intellectual property by buying the relevant drugs and
vaccines at fair prices. Confiscating property rights would reduce the
incentive for innovation the next time around.
6. Make economic preparations to ensure the continuity of food and
power supplies. The relevant “choke points” may include the check
clearing system and the use of mass transit to deliver food supply
workers to their jobs.
7. Realize that the federal government will be largely powerless in
the worst stages of a pandemic and make appropriate local plans.
8. Encourage the formation of prediction markets in an avian flu
pandemic. This will give us a better idea of the probability of
widespread human-to-human transmission.
9. Provide incentives for Asian countries to improve their
surveillance. Tie foreign aid to the receipt of useful information
about the progress of avian flu.
10. Reform the World Health Organization and give it greater autonomy from its government funders.
We should not do the following:
1. Tamiflu and vaccine stockpiling have their roles but they should
not form the centerpiece of a plan. In addition to the medical
limitations of these investments, institutional factors will restrict
our ability to allocate these supplies promptly to their proper uses.
2. We should not rely on quarantines and mass isolations. Both tend
to be counterproductive and could spread rather than limit a pandemic.
3. We should not expect the Army or Armed Forces to be part of a useful response plan.
4. We should not expect to choke off a pandemic in its country of
origin. Once a pandemic has started abroad, we should shut schools and
many public places immediately.
5. We should not obsess over avian flu at the expense of other
medical issues. The next pandemic or public health crisis could come
from any number of sources. By focusing on local preparedness and
decentralized responses, this plan is robust to surprise and will also
prove useful for responding to terrorism or natural catastrophes.