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[cdn-nucl-l] National advisory committee on biological or nuclear attack
Posted on November 13, 2001 and at:
Canada creates national advisory committee on biological or nuclear attack
Tuesday, November 13, 2001
VANCOUVER (CP) - Federal Health Minister Allan Rock is creating a committee
to advise him on how to proceed in the event of a biological or nuclear
"Here in Canada the risk of that happening is remote," Rock said at a news
conference Tuesday at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. "But that doesn't
make it any less important for governments to plan prudently and be ready."
Dr. Donald Low, chief of microbiology at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital,
will head the committee, whose complete membership will be announced in the
Earlier Tuesday, Rock participated in a roundtable discussion on emergency
preparedness with Vancouver's fire and police chiefs, the mayor, the city's
medical health officer and officials from the disease control centre and the
"We all agreed that the most important thing we can do is learn how to work
together better," Rock said.
He plans to meet with similar groups across the country to get input on who
should be part of the committee.
Rock's announcement was in addition to other precautions Canada has taken in
the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
The federal government's $12-million effort includes the strengthening of
laboratory capacity to test suspicious substances, provisions for
stockpiling drugs, training and buying equipment.
Rock said many of the committee members will volunteer their time and
there's no big expense attached to the initiative that also doesn't have any
particular time line.
"I think the greatest challenge we face is making sure that everybody up the
line communicates clearly with each other, that we have a co-ordinated
response so that if an emergency arises we know before it even starts who's
responsible for what," Rock said.
He also said Canada will be stockpiling smallpox vaccine and that officials
have yet to decide whether it will be domestically developed or bought from
the same companies contracted by the U.S. government.
The vaccine is not currently being produced anywhere, Rock noted.
He has previously said Canada has about 390,000 doses of smallpox vaccine in
storage and suggested he would like to have about 30 million doses ready.
Liberal MP Hedy Fry, who also attended the news conference, said Vancouver
has the best emergency preparedness team in the country and that's possibly
why Rock chose the city to make his announcement.
"We have the fire, police and the public health personnel who have been
working on this for a long time, who have the right kind of protocols ready
to roll," Fry said in an interview.
"It was just something that was kind of an offshoot of knowing that one day
we may get the big one," said Fry, a former Vancouver family doctor who was
referring to the possibility of a large earthquake on the West Coast.
Vancouver is also noted as being one of Canada's best prepared cities in
case of bioterrorism.
A 73-page protocol called Exposure to Biological Agents Response Plan was
prepared before the APEC summit in 1997.
The initiative was undertaken because of fears that protesters could use
biological and chemical agents at the summit.
© Copyright 2001 The Canadian Press