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White House warns US ‘not adequately prepared’ to handle future pandemics without new strategy

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The White House said the US was unprepared to face future pandemics when President Joe Biden’s top science adviser drafted a new $65 billion plan to get the nation ready.

dr. Eric Lander, the White House’s director of Science & Technology Policy, said the U.S. should invest in the new plan as biological threats are expected to appear “increasingly frequent” during a conference call on Friday.

The plan focused on funding critical developments such as vaccines, diagnostics, early warning systems and disease surveillance, as well as strengthening the country’s health system and global pandemic preparedness model.

“We need better capabilities because there is a reasonable chance that another severe pandemic will happen soon that could be worse than COVID-19, possibly even within the next decade,” Lander said.

President Joe Biden

Eric Lander, the White House’s director of Science & Technology Policy, outlined President Joe Biden’s plan to fight future pandemic, saying the US is unprepared

The White House's $65 plan focuses on virus studies and detection and funding for vaccine research, production and distribution.  Pictured, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh who will begin work on COVID-19 vaccine research on March 28, 2020.

The White House’s $65 plan focuses on virus studies and detection and funding for vaccine research, production and distribution. Pictured, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh who will begin work on COVID-19 vaccine research on March 28, 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic left hospitals in the US packed with patients.  Pictured, an overcrowded emergency room of a Houston, Texas hospital

The coronavirus pandemic left hospitals in the US packed with patients. Pictured, an overcrowded emergency room of a Houston, Texas hospital

And the next pandemic will most likely be materially different from COVID-19. So we have to be prepared for any kind of viral threat.’

In the 27-page paper titled American Pandemic Preparedness: Transforming Our Capabilities, Lander also called for improving the country’s real-time monitoring capabilities and upgrading to personal protective equipment that can be used against a wide variety of viruses.

The five pillars of pandemic preparedness

dr. Eric Lander, White House Director of Science & Technology Policy, outlined the five key pillars that would lead the US through a future pandemic

  • Pillar one: transforming our medical defenses, including improving vaccines, therapies and diagnostics.
  • Pillar two: Provide situational awareness about infectious disease threats, for both early warning and real-time monitoring.
  • Pillar Three: Strengthening public health systems, both in the US and internationally, to respond to emergencies, with a particular focus on protecting the most vulnerable communities.
  • Pillar Four: Building core capabilities, including personal protective equipment, supplies and supply chains, biosafety and biosecurity, and improving regulation.
  • Pillar five: managing the mission, with the seriousness of the purpose, commitment and responsibility of an Apollo program.

The plan also proposed $15 billion to $20 billion in funding to jump-start the initiative and create a new “mission control” office at the Department of Health and Human Services, which would be overseen by Congress.

The bulk of the plan is focused on spending a total of $24.2 billion to develop and test new vaccines for a range of viruses and to make improvements in vaccine distribution and manufacturing.

Another $11.8 billion would be spent on therapies, enabling US scientists to develop new antiviral drugs and ensure large-scale production capacity for antibody treatments.

Lander said the COVID-19 pandemic had also exposed “fundamental problems” with the US public health system and pandemic preparedness.

“We strongly believe that this mission is so important that it must be managed with the seriousness of the purpose, dedication and responsibility of, well, President Kennedy’s Apollo program, overseen by a special program office.”

The US health system has cracked under the weight of COVID-19 as more than 39 million cases have been reported to date. Hospitals across the country were overflowing with patients at the height of the pandemic, and some are still struggling with the sheer volume caused by the delta variant.

More than 640,000 people have died in the US so far as a result of COVID-19, John Hopkins University reported. Millions have died worldwide.

Lander said part of the problem had to do with a lack of coordination between federal, state and local governments.

In New York, a US Navy hospital ship was called to Manhattan to care for patients as city hospitals were packed with COVID-19 patients, but the boat went largely unused before being released by the federal government less than a month later. recalled.

Several state and local governments have also held back against the masking regulations, and the CDC has been criticized for its confusing reports about the effectiveness of masks and the COVID-19 vaccines.

And in May, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s Chief Medical Advisor, called for people’s right not to be vaccinated and spoke out against vaccine passports, fearing it could lead to some form of discrimination, despite the fact that vaccines are the best way to fight COVID-19. .

Lander said it was critical for the nation to work towards a unified means of communication to combat fear and misinformation about future pandemics.

White House officials said the government needed to do a better job of implementing confidence in vaccines and spreading them after the shortcomings revealed by COVID.  Pictured, a California woman getting a vaccine in August 2021

White House officials said the government needed to do a better job of implementing confidence in vaccines and spreading them after the shortcomings revealed by COVID. Pictured, a California woman getting a vaccine in August 2021

Much of the funding would go toward creating new vaccines to fight pandemics.  Pictured, New Jersey studies studying COVID in 2020

Much of the funding would go towards creating new vaccines to fight pandemics. Pictured, New Jersey studies studying COVID in 2020

The White House said early detection would be key to stopping future pandemics.  Pictured is a researcher studying the coronavirus before the major US outbreak on February 28

The White House said early detection would be key to stopping future pandemics. Pictured is a researcher studying the coronavirus before the major US outbreak on February 28

Poor communication between governments was seen as one of the major shortcomings when it came to the COVID response.  In March, NY received a Navy hospital boat, pictured, that remained largely unused before being returned to the federal government less than a month later.

Poor communication between governments was seen as one of the major shortcomings when it came to the COVID response. In March, NY received a Navy hospital boat, pictured, that remained largely unused before being returned to the federal government less than a month later.

dr. Beth Cameron, the senior director for Global Health Security and Biodefense, said her office would work closely with Lander and the president to swiftly execute the plan for both the long term and the immediate future.

Importantly, however, we continue to take stock of our full range of biological defense, pandemic and global health security needs, including capabilities, policies and practices that we need to update and renew, building on our lessons from COVID-19 and other outbreaks,” she said.

“COVID-19 has listed some challenges in our preparedness for a moderate pandemic, but we need additional capabilities to be fully prepared for any biological event that comes our way, and that includes fighting bioterrorism; countering the development and use of biological weapons; strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention; improving food security and food protection, zoonotic spillover events and others.’

Officials told NBC that the $65 plan was a “modest” investment, considering the $16 trillion in lost economic output the US has experienced as a result of the pandemic.

“If major pandemics similar to COVID-19, costing the US approximately $16 trillion, occur with a frequency of every 20 years, the annual economic impact on the US would be $800 billion per year. Even for slightly milder pandemics, annual costs would likely exceed $500 billion,” officials said.

The US continues to experience a high rise in new cases due to the delta variant.

The CDC reported 161,387 new cases and 1,514 new deaths on Thursday.

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