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House Considers Vaccine Bill

WASHINGTON - The U.S. House of Representatives today is slated to push a $2.9 billion package that boosts vaccine stockpiles and protects food and water supplies as part of Congress' response to the terrorist attacks, The Associated Press reports. The Senate is considering a similar bill that would cost $3.2 billion.

"We need to pay far more attention to the first responders ... and to the safeguards needed to minimize threats in the future," said Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

The bill proposed by the House would authorize more than $1 billion for states and health care facilities to improve preparedness and train personnel; $450 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to upgrade its facility; $1 billion for the Health and Human Services secretary to expand national stockpiles of medicine and vaccine; $100 million to protect imported food; and $100 million to develop emergency response plans for drinking-water systems. In addition, the bill requires labs possessing the 36 most deadly biological agents to register in a national database.

Many in the food industry have complained that the bill unnecessarily expands government regulations over food.

"If there is any weakness in the current system, it's not from a lack of authority. It's from a lack of resources," said Susan Stout, vice president of federal affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers of America.

Money for the programs is to come out of the $20 billion in anti-terrorism spending Congress has already authorized.

If the Senate passes its own version, House and Senate negotiators will have to meet to craft a compromise, the AP reports.
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