PREVENT Pandemics Act takes common sense steps to act on lessons learned from the pandemic response and improve the nation’s preparedness for future public health emergencies
Murray: “After everything our nation has been through these past two years, we owe it to everyone who worked so hard to get us through this crisis to take every step we can to make sure we are never in this situation again, and that’s what this bill will help us get done.”
Burr: “As the response to COVID-19 continues to evolve, we must reflect on the lessons learned from the last two years and determine where we were successful, where we failed, and what we did not anticipate so we are better prepared for the next threat we face. This discussion draft starts that conversation.”
Washington, D.C. – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), and Ranking Member, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), released a discussion draft of the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act), bipartisan legislation focused on strengthening the nation’s public health and medical preparedness and response systems in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation is the result of months of bipartisan work to examine what has worked, and what has not, during the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and incorporates ideas from multiple members on both sides of the aisle. This draft legislation lays the groundwork to build a stronger public health and medical preparedness and response system.
Chair Murray said:
“The pain of this pandemic is unforgettable, and we have a responsibility to make sure its lessons are unforgettable, too. The independent COVID-19 task force this bill establishes will allow us to fully account for consequential gaps and breakdowns in our response efforts.
“The PREVENT Pandemics Act also takes action to address several of the longstanding challenges that have undermined our pandemic response from the start—like strengthening our medical supply chains, improving our public health data systems and workforce, updating the development process for tests, treatments and vaccines, combatting misinformation, and more.
“We’ve all seen how damaging it is when communities can’t get tests, health care facilities can’t get masks, public health experts can’t get comprehensive data, and families can’t get clear, reliable information. We’re painfully aware of how the trauma of a pandemic can worsen a mental health crisis, and magnify damaging health inequities in communities. After everything our nation has been through these past two years, we owe it to everyone who worked so hard to get us through this crisis to take every step we can to make sure we are never in this situation again, and that’s what this bill will help us get done.
“I’m grateful to Senator Burr and my HELP Committee colleagues on both sides of the aisle for the hard work that has gone into crafting legislation over the past few months that addresses so many pressing issues. When Senator Burr and I agreed to work on a bipartisan bill, we both knew it wouldn’t include everything we wanted—but we also knew there was a lot we could agree on, and that it was important people across the country see Congress is serious about making sure we learn from this pandemic. I look forward to continuing to work on this discussion draft with Senator Burr and my colleagues and to hearing from state, local, Tribal, and territorial health experts and officials, and others as we work to strengthen this important bill.”
Ranking Member Burr said:
“COVID-19 has forced us to have hard conversations on the state of our nation’s pandemic and public health preparedness and response capabilities. As the response to COVID-19 continues to evolve, we must reflect on the lessons learned from the last two years and determine where we were successful, where we failed, and what we did not anticipate so we are better prepared for the next threat we face. This discussion draft starts that conversation.
“While our federal response has been successful in the fastest development and distribution of safe and effective vaccines and treatments against an emerging infectious disease, one of the biggest challenges we face is addressing the systemic and cultural failures of the CDC under two Administrations. The American people have stopped listening to the CDC because of their confusing and conflicting guidance. Justifiably so.
“The CDC reforms in this draft are just the beginning of what is needed. Demanding accountability and transparency from the CDC is a critical first step to ensuring that the agency provides clear and timely recommendations that Americans find trustworthy. The draft also strengthens our countermeasure enterprise through advancing critical research in this field and in FDA’s development and review of these tests, treatments, and vaccines to improve readiness for future threats and bolstering the use of cutting-edge adaptable platform technologies and advanced manufacturing approaches.
“I look forward to working with our colleagues, current and former state and local public health experts, and others who have ideas on how to rebuild the CDC and improve other parts of our public health preparedness and pandemic response system. For 20 years, Congress’ work on public health preparedness and response has been bipartisan, forward looking, and critical to the safety of the American people, so I’m glad Chair Murray and I have reached this starting point. I am optimistic that the legislative process will further improve the bill and build broad support for these necessary reforms.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous damage to families and communities across the country. It wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, closed schools and businesses, devastated the nation’s mental health, exhausted public health and health care workers, and killed more than 860,000 people. The full cost of this crisis is devastating and immeasurable.
It has also put a harsh spotlight on some of the longstanding challenges the United States’ public health preparedness systems face and brought to light unanticipated challenges. Broken supply chains and inadequate stockpiles led to shortages of masks, ventilators, and other medical products. Tests throughout the response have been either critically delayed or scarce, leaving workers, schools, and communities unable to make informed, timely decisions about how to keep themselves and those around them safe. Outdated and inconsistent public health data systems made it hard for federal, state, local, Tribal and territorial public health departments to get a full picture of the crisis and inform their responses. The nation’s public health and health care workforce was overwhelmed. Mental health and substance use disorder challenges and health disparities, which were already damaging to so many communities, worsened during this crisis.
To address these challenges, the discussion draft of the PREVENT Pandemics Act includes steps to:
The Senators are also continuing to work with their colleagues on additional provisions to include in the final bill—including consideration of proposals that seek to strengthen and support cutting-edge biomedical advanced research such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), improve laboratory safety and security, establish clear leadership across the U.S. Government in future responses, and to ensure the continued accountability and oversight of our response agencies —which they plan to mark up in Committee in the coming weeks.
Feedback on the discussion draft may be submitted to HELPPandemicbill@help.senate.gov until February 4, 2022.
A section-by-section available HERE.
Legislative text for discussion draft available HERE: