During the recent swine flu pandemic, U.S. officials were bitterly frustrated by the need to rely on foreign vaccine makers to supply the bulk of the flu shots needed to calm an initially panicked population. Now WikiLeaks has put the issue back in the spotlight with its posting of the government's catalog of foreign vaccine facilities which could be vulnerable to a terrorist attack, threatening the country's vitally needed supplies.
At the beginning of this week, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano criticized the leak, one of thousands, saying that it unveiled information that could jeopardize national security. The entire cable included a look at bottlenecks in the world's shipping industry as well as raw materials which are sourced overseas. Altogether, 35 companies in 59 countries are named in the cable. They all have facilities that "if destroyed, disrupted or exploited, would likely have an immediate and deleterious effect on the United States."
Some experts noted that the cable highlights just how vulnerable the U.S. is on the vaccine front. "Would we rely on the Chinese or the Brazilians to make our next-generation fighter jet?" Randall Larsen, an advisor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Biosecurity, told the Los Angeles Times. "In the 21st century, that capability to produce vaccines is just as important as the ability to produce our own fighter jets."