The South Carolina Pandemic Influenza Ethics Task Force will host forums across the state over the next nine days that include presentations from experts and open discussions. The task force has been charged by the Center for Disease Control Prevention in Atlanta to plan for a pandemic in the Palmetto State. In the event a pandemic were to hit the state, many ethical decisions would need to be made. There are not enough supplies, medication, or health care professionals to treat everyone forcing officials to make difficult choices. Because of this, the Ethics Task Force wants to host these forums to give the public a chance to weigh in on these tough decisions. Jim Beasley, a spokesman for The Department of Health and Environmental Control, says it is important to involve the public.
“The Center for Disease Control called upon the Department of Health and Environmental Control to lead an effort to develop some ehtical guidelines,” said Beasley. “But we also feel that the only way these ethical guidelines can truly be excepted by the people of South Carolina is if the people of South Carolina are aware of what the situations are going to be and some of the guidelines we’re going to propose for making those decisions.”
Beasley explains some of the difficult decisions that would need to be made should a pandemic strike. “During an influenza pandemic, we’re going to be facing a brand new type of virus,” he said. “Therefore, there will not be any type of vaccine available. At least that’s what we believe to be the situation.
“Therefore, it would be several months before the first batch of vaccines could ever be produced once that virus has actually emerged. We know some hard decisions will have to be made because once that first batch arrives, there is not going to be enough for everybody.”
Beasley went on to say that a pandemic is very serious and is not something to be taken lightly. According to him, “it’s a medically proven fact that pandemics occur.
“As a matter of fact, during the 20th century, there were three such pandemics that affected South Carolina and the United States. Probably the most serious occurred in 1918-1919. During that time, millions of people died around the world. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that between 50 million and 100 million people were killed by influenza in that time.”
The first forum is Monday night at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach. Greenville Technical College hosts on Wednesday. Next Monday, they go to Charleston County Council Chambers and the following Wednesday, the forum will be held at Midlands Technical College in Columbia.