Gerald R. Ford photo

Remarks Urging Congressional Enactment of the National Swine Flu Immunization Program.

August 06, 1976

I HAVE been following with great concern the investigations into the cause of the tragic outbreak of illness in Pennsylvania this past week.1 All Americans join me in their sympathy for the families of more than 20 people who have died and their hope for the speedy recovery of those currently under treatment.

1 The President was referring to the outbreak of a flu-like illness which caused the death of several persons attending a State American Legion convention in Philadelphia, July 21-24.

I am greatly 'relieved of course that these tragic deaths were not the result of swine flu. But let us remember one thing: they could have been. The threat of swine flu outbreak this year is still very, very genuine. Data from the scientific community clearly supports the need for a full-scale inoculation program. Clinical tests conducted to date clearly demonstrate that the vaccine is both safe and effective. There is no excuse to let the legislative program that I proposed 7 weeks ago--a program that could safeguard the lives of many, many Americans-be delayed any longer.

HEW Secretary Mathews and the leaders of Congress reported to me on Wednesday that after long hours of hearings, discussions, negotiations, Congress finally would act yesterday to pass legislation to provide swine flu vaccine to all the American people. Needless to say, I was keenly disappointed to learn last evening that the news from the doctors in Pennsylvania had led to another slowdown in the Congress.

I am frankly very dumfounded to know that the Congress, which took the time and effort to enact ill-advised legislation to exempt its own Members from certain State income taxes, has failed to act to protect 215 million Americans from the threat of swine flu. Drug manufacturers have produced over 100 million doses of swine flu vaccine in bulk form, but that vaccine has not been prepared in suitable dosage form, pending action by the Congress.

Because of these legislative delays, we are, at this very moment, at least 6 weeks away from beginning an effective inoculation program. Had Congress acted promptly after I submitted my proposal, we would have been in a position to dispatch the shipments of vaccine today.

Further delay in this urgently needed legislation is unconscionable. I call on the Congress to act now--before its next recess--so that the health of the American people will be fully protected.

Note: The President spoke at 3:38 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House.

Gerald R. Ford, Remarks Urging Congressional Enactment of the National Swine Flu Immunization Program. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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