01.17.18

Murray Demands Bipartisan Action to Prepare for Public Health Threats

Sen. Murray calls for Congress to reauthorize the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act with a focus on science and evidence based-policies that have been proven to protect families

 

Murray concerned by absence of Brenda Fitzgerald, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, due to financial conflicts of interest

 

A century after one of the most deadly influenza pandemics in history, Senate hearing investigates the nation’s preparedness to address serious global health threats

 

Sen Murray: Ideological response to women’s health care during the Zika crisis “harmed families in ways they will carry for the rest of their lives.”

 

***WATCH SEN. MURRAY’S OPENING STATEMENT HERE***

 

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered the following remarks at a hearing to discuss the nation’s preparedness and response capabilities to public health threats. This was the first in a series of hearings to discuss the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA).

 

In her opening statement, Senator Murray called for continued bipartisan work to strengthen our nation’s public health emergency and response capacity.

 

She also criticized the Trump Administration’s failure to deliver an effective response to recent public health threats like the opioid epidemic and the public health crisis cause by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where many Americans are still living without electricity and clean water.

 

The committee heard testimony from Dr. Robert Kadlec, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at Health and Human Services (HHS) and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), did not testify due to ongoing conflicts of interest presented by investments. This is the latest of several hearings in which Fitzgerald was unable to represent the CDC. Dr. Stephen Redd, the Director of the CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, testified in Director Fitzgerald’s place.

 

Key excerpts of Ranking Member Murray’s opening statement:  

 

“We can do better than the President’s offensively slow response in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria. The storm left many Americans without access to clean water, electricity, or health care for months. We can do better than the Administration’s response to the opioid epidemic. President Trump declared the crisis a public health emergency 83 days ago, yet has taken little meaningful action.”

 

“We can also do better than our slow response in approving funding to combat Zika in 2016. The World Health Organization declared Zika a global health emergency in February. Instead of a fast response with needed funding, the response got politicized around some Republicans’ push to undermine women’s health care and access to contraception—a key requirement to prevent the virus from causing devastating birth defects. As a result, it took Congress nine months to pass emergency funding for a public health crisis endangering mothers, babies and families across the world. That delay hurt people. It harmed families in ways they will carry for the rest of their lives.  We must do better.”

 

“We are most successful at protecting our families against pandemic threats when we respond with quick bipartisan action. We need decisions based in science and expert medical opinion, not ideology—especially when it comes to women’s health. …We need innovative medical countermeasures to protect us from today’s threats, like a universal flu vaccine and antibiotics to combat resistant bacteria.”

 

“We must continue strong partnerships with industry that will allow us to rapidly respond to new threats. We need to stop fear and uncertainty before they create panic by getting families helpful and accurate information from sources they trust. We can’t allow anyone to undermine the science of proven solutions like vaccines. We need to respond to global health crises abroad before they travel home. Diseases are not stopped by borders, or walls, or bans.”

 

“Congress has a strong bipartisan track record of addressing these challenges through the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, or PAHPA– which strengthened our nation’s public health preparedness, and created new roles, programs, and authorities for public health emergency response…  I am hopeful we can continue that progress with legislation that focuses on the science and evidence-based polices we know work to mitigate public health crises, considers the needs of everyone and puts women and families before politics, supports state and local public health officials, ensures communities don’t spend months waiting for needed emergency resources, and enables us to respond to the next crisis with foresight, rather than learn from the next tragedy with hindsight.”

 

“I’m frustrated Director Fitzgerald is once again unable to join us. Due to conflicts of interest presented by investments, our CDC Director still has to recuse herself on some of the most important health issues we face, including issues related to data collection and information sharing, which are so relevant to our conversation today. I’m concerned that she still cannot give her full attention to all the pressing health threats we face and hope these conflicts of interest will be resolved soon.”

 

Video of Sen. Murray’s Opening Remarks Available HERE.

Full text of Ranking Member Murray’s opening statement:

“Thank you all for joining this hearing on our nation’s preparedness to combat public health threats as we look toward reauthorizing the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act later this year. I especially want to thank my colleagues Senator Casey and Senator Burr for their bipartisan work and leadership on this important issue.  

 

“Local Washington state papers show why today’s discussion is so important to families around the country—with headlines like: ‘Flu deaths and cases increasing in Pierce County’ and ‘Flu outbreak in Snohomish County kills five; 50 hospitalized.’

 

“A bad flu season can be a nightmare for families and too often ends in horrible tragedy.

 

“Just as we must continue improving our public health response across the board to prevent these tragedies on the local level, we must also make sure we are vigilant against pandemics of a global scale.

 

“Such a pandemic could infect half a billion people—more than the entire population of the United States. This isn’t speculation. It happened 100 years ago. The 1918 influenza pandemic was a tragedy more deadly to the human race than World War I. And today the threat of pandemic flu is joined by new threats.

 

“So what have we learned in the last century? Are we better prepared for the next global catastrophe?

 

“When you consider Ebola, and how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and so many partners supported Nigeria as they instituted evidence-based policies tracked the path of the disease and contained it when the outbreak reached Lagos, the answer is clearly yes.

 

“When you consider our strategic national stockpile, which can deliver 50 tons of emergency medical supplies anywhere in the U.S. in 12 hours, the answer is clearly yes.

 

“When you consider the FDA’s approval of new medical countermeasures to combat anthrax, flu, radiation, plague, and so much more, the answer is clearly yes.

 

“However, our track record is far from perfect. We can do better.

 

“We can do better than the President’s offensively slow response in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria. The storm left many Americans without access to clean water, electricity, or health care for months.

 

“We can do better than the Administration’s response to the opioid epidemic. President Trump declared the crisis a public health emergency 83 days ago, yet has taken little meaningful action. I’m glad this committee will continue its bipartisan work to address the opioid crisis in another hearing soon.

 

“We can also do better than our slow response in approving funding to combat Zika in 2016. The World Health Organization declared Zika a global health emergency in February.

 

“Instead of a fast response with needed funding, the response got politicized around some Republicans’ push to undermine women’s health care and access to contraception—a key requirement to prevent the virus from causing devastating birth defects. As a result, it took Congress nine months to pass emergency funding for a public health crisis endangering mothers, babies and families across the world. That delay hurt people. It harmed families in ways they will carry for the rest of their lives. 

“We must do better.

 

“We are most successful at protecting our families against pandemic threats when we respond with quick bipartisan action. 

 

“We need decisions based in science and expert medical opinion, not ideology—especially when it comes to women’s health.

 

“We need federal, state, and local agencies to have the people, capacity, and funding they need to protect communities. Hiring freezes and funding cuts make us less prepared—not more.

 

“We need to plan for everyone. We can’t overlook the young, or the elderly. We can’t forget pregnant women, or individuals with disabilities, or those fighting chronic diseases like diabetes.

 

“We need innovative medical countermeasures to protect us from today’s threats, like a universal flu vaccine and antibiotics to combat resistant bacteria.

 

“And we must continue strong partnerships with industry that will allow us to rapidly respond to new threats.

 

“We need to stop fear and uncertainty before they create panic by getting families helpful and accurate information from sources they trust. We can’t allow anyone to undermine the science of proven solutions like vaccines.

 

“We need to respond to global health crises abroad before they travel home. Diseases are not stopped by borders, or walls, or bans.

 

“This is a place where the United States can, and should, lead. We should continue to show our international partners that we are focused on these issues and will be their ally in preparing for and addressing public health threats.

 

“Congress has a strong bipartisan track record of addressing these challenges through the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, or PAHPA– which strengthened our nation’s public health preparedness, and created new roles, programs, and authorities for public health emergency response.

 

“Reauthorizing the Act in 2013, we built on that record and: enhanced medical surge capacity, modernized biosurveillance capabilities, and increased our focus on at-risk individuals.

 

“I am hopeful we can continue that progress with legislation that focuses on the science and evidence-based polices we know work to mitigate public health crises, considers the needs of everyone and puts women and families before politics, supports state and local public health officials, ensures communities don’t spend months waiting for needed emergency resources, and enables us to respond to the next crisis with foresight, rather than learn from the next tragedy with hindsight. 

 

“We don’t know what the next public health threat will be. We don’t know where, or when, or how it will start. But we do know that being prepared starts now. You all have a critical role to play in keeping our communities healthy and safe.

 

“The Food and Drug Administration helps facilitate the development and review of medical countermeasures, and grants emergency use authorizations for products needed on the front lines.

 

“The Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response guides our nation’s preparedness planning, helps ensure our health care system is ready to face any emergency, and invests in the medical countermeasures pipeline through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

 

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is on the frontlines supporting state and local public health departments, overseeing the strategic national stockpile, gathering and analyzing key data, and serving as a trusted source of information to the public.

 

“I’m interested to hear from each of you about your work to fulfill these important roles and keep our country safe.

 

“However, I’m frustrated Director Fitzgerald is once again unable to join us. Due to conflicts of interest presented by investments, our CDC Director still has to recuse herself on some of the most important health issues we face, including issues related to data collection and information sharing, which are so relevant to our conversation today. I’m concerned that she still cannot give her full attention to all the pressing health threats we face and hope these conflicts of interest will be resolved soon.

 

“Thank you Dr. Redd for joining us in her place. I look forward to hearing from you and all of our witnesses.


“Thank you.”


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