Homeland Security: Pandemics and Biological Attacks

Despite the current measures to curb the spread of various diseases, pandemics have ceased to be the problem of some particular, thus becoming a threat for the entire world. Moreover, there is a chance that the knowledge in the field of microbiology could be applied for terroristic attacks that could have the effect on the world that can be compared to a nuclear bomb. Consequently, mechanisms that include certain measures to prevent such situations and their possible negative consequences have been elaborated. Several of them include vaccinations and organizational prevention measures such as closed schools, cancelled flights, prohibition for people to gather in large groups, and so on. Therefore, the danger of a possible pandemic requires an analysis of legal framework dedicated to the issue and the evaluation of changes in the legislation if necessary.

Lister and Redhead (2009) researched the history of the 2009 flu pandemic situation and the actions of the US government applied to eliminate and to prevent the consequences of the flu. All actions of the government were based on the strategic and planning documents that described the mechanism of flu protection. Thus, these mechanisms presupposed vaccination that included such stages as the vaccine development, manufacturing, immunization, and the stage of vaccine’s monitoring and effectiveness (Lister & Redhead, 2009). The problem is that the protection of the American population from pandemics requires additional funding from the budget of the country. For example, in 2009, the amount of $2,05 billion was approved by the Senate “to address the current H1N1 flu outbreak and prepare for a possible pandemic” (Lister & Redhead, 2009). This means that there is no guaranteed instrument for the government to apply in the case of a pandemic outbreak. Moreover, while saving the US citizens from H1N1, the government also prevented the worldwide spread of the virus that could have killed many citizens of other countries. In future, the World Health Organization (WHO) should not only coordinate the process by selecting the actions, but also attract the financial resources of other countries as a compensation. Such actions will certainly make other nations pay more attention to the preventive pandemic actions and vaccination.

Moreover, pandemics influence the economies of many countries, thus causing the reduction in the activities of many spheres of economy (Begley, 2013). Thus, under the estimations of the World Bank, China’s SARS outbreak of 2003 reduced the global GDP by $33 billion (Begley, 2013). Moreover, the flu treatment itself, doctor visits, and the days with the sick leave of the staff were not included in the calculations, only the pure fall of the income for companies) (Begley, 2013). Thus, the situation in 2009, when the government had decided to close schools during a flu pandemic for two weeks, caused the loss of economic activity of the K-12 parents that led to the loss of 5-20 billion dollars for the US economy.

In the end, the last 20 years have demonstrated the appearance of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the pandemic influenza A (H5N1) and influenza A (H1N1) as well as the Ebola virus disease. Recently, the new dangerous Zika virus was registered (Gostin & Ayala, 2017). This proves that the worldwide health system has some drawbacks that should be corrected in the nearest time. In addition, preventing outbreaks is not the question of national security anymore since the global security is already in danger. The US government can spend billions of dollars on the pandemic prevention actions, but its efforts will not be successful if the rest of the world does not support it. Currently, the World Health Organization (n.d.) tries to create the Global Health Cluster that includes only 23 countries. This Global Health Cluster coordinates the efforts of the countries by providing tools, standards, and policies as well as elaborating strategic documents and improving global partnership of health organizations (Global Health Cluster, 2014). In this case, the citizens of the affected countries have a chance to survive pandemic outbreaks in the future.

The US National Pandemic Strategy includes two main documents - the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza and the National Strategy Implementation Plan that has helped overcome such pandemics as the 2009 Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic and the H7N9 in 2013, Ebola and Zika viruses. In June 2017, the Pandemic Influenza Plan was updated regarding the new characteristics of the flu viruses and “their propensity to change, the ability to spread easily among people, and the routes of transmission – make the disease challenging to contain” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). The new updated plan has more domains (seven), unlike the 2005 Plan that included only five of them. The domains include the goals and objectives that are attained by the key actions to have a quicker responsey to a future influenza pandemic.

Another pandemic threat is a criminal biological attack. To prevent and to cope with the possible pandemic, the government applies the National Security Law that includes The Hague Conventions and 1925 Geneva Protocol to The Hague Convention as well as the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004). Furthermore, the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 states that “microbial or other biological agents or toxins must not be applied as the weapons in armed conflicts” (United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, 1972). The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), adopted in 2006 and signed by George Bush, made the health infrastructure not only the question of the health of the nation but also the matter of national security. This document elaborated the strategies and the measures to be implemented in the next years to make the US health system more resilient to external threats (Eisenstein, Finnegan, & Curran, 2014). Various pandemics occur, but the activity of the government could save lives and stop the worldwide disaster from happening.

Some scientists in their research indicate that the existing legal regime cannot prevent bioterrorism (Merriam, 2014). The mechanisms of pandemic prevention and bioterrorism prevention are useful since the threat of pandemic outbreaks is real. Terrorists can use new viruses and create the situation when the government cannot cope with the problem. The prevention mechanisms should include not only vaccinations but also the peaceful situation in the worldwide politics. Moreover, the vaccine producers should also be controlled to prevent the intentional harm.

However, the case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts in 1905 proves that the governmental security measures cannot be applied to all citizens as far as some measures restrict the citizens’ freedoms guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution (“U.S. Constitutional Amendments,” n.d.) that guarantees individual liberty. In 1905, vaccination was compulsory in Massachusetts. Jacobson and his son did not want to be vaccinated and they sued the state to avoid paying the monetary fine. Their petition was based on the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution (“U.S. Constitutional Amendments,” n.d.). Thus, the US citizen wanted to protect his right guaranteed by the Constitution.

Therefore, on the whole, the basic law could object national interests, or the individual liberty was restricted by compulsory vaccination. In this case, the societal interests contradict the individual ones. The Court in 1905 stated that the smallpox epidemic caused a great danger to society, which meant that Jacobson’s petition was not to be granted. However, the Court did not oblige him to make the vaccination itself, but the man to pay the penalty. The decision was useless for society in general. It is obvious that the amount of the penalty, which was 5 dollars back than and that would be equal to today's 150 dollars, will not cover the damage of the pandemic to society, state, and the entire world.

Therefore, the law base of pandemic prevention, no matter whether it is of natural or terroristic nature, does not guarantee the safety of citizens. The prevention measures are flawed, since the US citizens can avoid them, while the world’s efforts of pandemic prevention are not coordinated well enough. Finally, the evolution of viruses is so quick that laboratories cannot cope with creating appropriate vaccines on time. Only common sense can help prevent a biological attack, because the system of documents, measures, and the guarantee of personal liberty can provide a successful protection.