The U.S. Senate has given final approval to a bill that aims to better prepare the United States for a bioterror attack. The measure now goes to President Bush for his expected signature.
By a unanimous 98 to 0 vote, the Senate passed a bill that offers assistance to the federal, state and local governments to prepare for and respond to bioterror attacks.
The measure, which the House approved Wednesday, authorizes $4.6 billion over two years.
More than $600 million is to go for producing and stockpiling vaccines, while $300 million is to go for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to upgrade its facilities.
The bill also calls for protecting food and water supplies and developing emergency plans at all levels of government.
Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, is the chief sponsor. He said, "This is the single greatest investment our nation has ever made in public health."
Republican Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee is a co-sponsor. He said, "It combines sound policy and enhanced resources to better prepare our nation and to provide security to the American people."
The bill is a compromise between House and Senate versions of the legislation.
The measure is a response to a series of anthrax attacks last year. The Senate itself was a target.
An anthrax-laced letter was discovered in Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office in October, while another letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy was discovered later.
Five people in Florida, New York, Connecticut and Washington DC died after anthrax letters were sent through the mail. The incidents are still under investigation.