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State of the Union to unveil bioterrorism response plan

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will use his State of the Union address to unveil a new plan for a better and quicker response to bioterrorism threats and attacks, the White House said yesterday.

The announcement came just hours after the release of a report critical of the government's ability to prepare and respond to bioterrorist attacks.

Obama will be asking government leaders to rethink their plans for medical countermeasures so that quick, reliable and affordable antidotes will be available during any public health emergency, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said. This would be a redesign of the medical antidote system, he said.

Earlier yesterday, the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation gave the Obama administration a failing grade for its efforts to prepare for and respond to a biological attack.

In 2008, the commission was also critical of the government's ability to prepare and respond to a biological attack. The government responded to that and developed a plan to prevent the illegal spread of biological weapons.

In December, Obama signed an order to create a system so the federal government could rapidly distribute medical countermeasures to supplement state and local responses after a biological attack, Shapiro said. Obama's new plan will mean that better and cheaper drugs will be distributed more quickly, he said. Despite these efforts, the WMD commission said the Obama administration is not addressing urgent threats, including bioterrorism "Each of the last three administrations has been slow to recognize and respond to the biothreat," said former Sen. Bob Graham, chairman of the commission.

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