Congress should create a national board on pandemic preparedness (The Hill)

THE HILL | As we approach the frightening, chilling milestone of nearly 1 million dead from COVID-19, it should go without question that preventing this loss of life again should be a top priority of our United States Congress, regardless of party affiliation.   

The recent release of a discussion draft of the bipartisan Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act) is a significant step forward toward enhancing our nation’s security. We applaud Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) for putting forth critical policies that would strengthen federal and state preparedness, improve our response capacity through data systems modernization, accelerate research and countermeasure discovery, modernize the supply chain for vital medical products, and enhance development and combat shortages of medical products. 

While the PREVENT Pandemics Act proposes a short-term task force to examine the initial emergence of the pandemic and the nation’s response, we also believe that the legislation should include a permanent oversight mechanism so that the United States is equipped to respond to future threats. There is currently no congressionally chartered body for evaluating the state of America’s pandemic preparedness system, leaving the nation vulnerable to a suboptimal response to public health emergencies and future pandemics. For this reason, we and our colleagues on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Future of Health Task Force call on Congress to create a national board on pandemic preparedness. The independent board would establish a set of metrics and benchmarks for evaluation of federal and state pandemic preparedness capacity and capability; gauge how the nation is faring against these metrics; and develop an annual report to Congress on the state of pandemic preparedness with specific recommendations.  

The board should consider some broad thematic areas while developing metrics including, nonpharmaceutical and pharmaceutical mitigation measures; public health, emergency management, and health care system coordination; equity in emergency response planning; exercising of response plans; standardized data collection and reporting along with data privacy and security standards; real-time surveillance and systems; vaccination infrastructure, distribution and uptake; and, stockpiling and supply chain resiliency. Throughout the metric development process, Congress should require that the board consult with stakeholders, including relevant federal agencies, private sector organizations, and subject matter experts.  

Read the full article here: