President Bush on Wednesday signed legislation to develop and stockpile vaccines and other antidotes to chemical and germ attacks, saying the measure will "rally the great promise of American science and innovation to confront the greatest danger of our time."
The legislation, Project BioShield, provides the drug industry with incentives to research and develop bioterrorism countermeasures. It speeds up the approval process of antidotes and, in an emergency, allows the government to distribute certain treatments before the Food and Drug Administration has approved them.
"We know that the terrorists seek an even deadlier technology, and if they acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons we have no doubt they will use them to cause even greater harm," Bush said in the Rose Garden. He said the legislation sends a message about America's direction in the war on terror--that the United States refuses to stand idle "when modern technology might be turned against us."
U.S. officials are hoping that Project BioShield will yield enough new-generation anthrax vaccine to dose 25 million people. Federal health officials also hope that the $5.6 billion program will provide antidotes for botulism and anthrax, a safer smallpox vaccine and a long-awaited children's version of an anti-radiation pill.
"Modern terrorist threats come not just from explosions, but also from silent killers such as deadly germs and chemical agents," Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), an author of the bill, said in a statement. "Project BioShield creates a lifesaving partnership between our government and the private sector to develop the vaccines needed to project our citizens from this bioterrorism. This bill could save millions of lives."