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AFT Resolutions


WHEREAS, the prospect of an influenza pandemic has increased dramatically. The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring a growing and unprecedented outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza that now jeopardizes domestic poultry and poses a rapidly growing threat to worldwide human health. The U.S. government estimates that in a worse-case scenario, pandemic influenza would lead to 1.9 million deaths, 9.9 million hospitalizations and 90 million illnesses; and

WHEREAS, we are overdue for a worldwide pandemic. Influenza pandemics usually come every 30 years; the last pandemic (the Hong Kong Flu) was in 1968 and 1969. The H5N1 virus may be only one of many viruses that could trigger the next pandemic; and

WHEREAS, the WHO has called upon every nation to prepare for an inevitable pandemic flu. The WHO has recommended that every nation strengthen surveillance, research, vaccination development, public health preparation and communication, as well as the stockpiling of anti-viral drugs in anticipation of a pandemic; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. government to date has provided some guidance for preparation but has provided limited or no funding for state, public health and healthcare facility planning and preparation. The federal government also lags behind other countries in the stockpiling of crucial supplies and anti-viral drugs; and

WHEREAS, historic respiratory disease epidemics have taken a high toll on healthcare workers as evidenced by the recent SARS epidemic in Asia and Canada where healthcare workers were the majority of victims. Furthermore, the current U.S. Health and Human Services Department guidelines for healthcare personnel work-related exposure are inadequate—calling for surgical masks instead of more protective respirators (N-95 and higher). Seasonal influenza vaccination programs for healthcare workers are also inadequate; and

WHEREAS, the current influenza vaccination structure is inadequate in the U.S. There are currently no U.S. manufacturers of influenza vaccine. Nor are there any effective systems in place for mass influenza vaccination programs:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers advocate for federal funding for all aspects of influenza pandemic preparation, including more research, development of an adequate system for vaccination of U.S. citizens and expanded support to state, territorial and local governments for pandemic influenza planning and preparation; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT advocate for federal legislation directing the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to promulgate a comprehensive standard that would protect healthcare workers and first responders from preventable exposure to influenza and other respiratory diseases. Such a standard should include, at a minimum, requirements for employer-written pandemic flu or other respiratory disease epidemic plans, medical surveillance, engineering controls, adequate respirators (N-95s at a minimum), training and vaccinations; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT urge the involvement of AFT leaders and members in the development of school, healthcare facility and public agency pandemic flu plans; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT provide educational information for AFT leaders and members on all aspects of pandemic influenza.