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Senators Harkin, Burr, Enzi, Casey, and Alexander Introduce Bill to Better Prepare Nation for the Threat of Pandemics or Bioterror Attacks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, along with Senators Burr, Enzi, Casey, and Alexander introduced the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013, a bipartisan effort to ensure that our nation is prepared to respond to a wide range of medical and public health emergencies, whether naturally occurring or the result of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack. 

As a result of the passage of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) of 2006, the federal government, in partnership with state and local governments, took significant steps to strengthen our nation’s medical and public health preparedness and response capabilities.  Despite improvements in preparedness in recent years, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and other emergencies at home and abroad underscore the need to maximize America’s resilience to the full range of threats.  Based on the lessons learned since enactment of PAHPA in 2006, this reauthorization makes targeted enhancements to existing preparedness and response programs and authorities.

“This bipartisan reauthorization will enhance our nation’s ability to protect American families from the full  range of public health emergencies,” Senator Harkin said. “By increasing coordination among federal, state, and local governments, ensuring that our preparedness capabilities take into account the needs of at-risk individuals, investing in research and medical countermeasure development, and strengthening our planning efforts, we can be better prepared to face threats to public health. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to pass this critical legislation in the coming weeks.”

“The threats facing our nation are serious and we must address them accordingly.   The American people expect us to do all that we can to prevent an attack and, if one should occur, be fully prepared to respond, including having safe and effective medical countermeasures readily available.  While key progress has been made since PAHPA was signed into law, more work remains to be done,” Senator Burr said.  “This legislation redoubles our efforts to protect the American people by strengthening our existing programs and making targeted improvements in areas in which we know we must do better, including ensuring that our nation’s medical countermeasure enterprise reflects and is prepared to respond to modern-day threats.”

“Ensuring that our nation is prepared and able to respond to a public health emergency is an essential part of our national security and an issue we can all get behind,” Senator Enzi said. “This bill will help guarantee America has the tools it needs for a well-developed and coordinated response to any biological disaster. I thank Senator Burr for his leadership on this issue and his drive to make sure federal, state, and local entities are working together to optimize our health preparedness efforts.”

“With a range of public health emergencies over the past five years –the outbreak of the H1N1 pandemic flu, the Fukashima disaster, and an array of natural disasters, our public health system has proven more capable than it was a decade ago, however, these disasters have also taught us that we must do more to improve our public health system,” said Senator Casey. “The strategies and requirements in this bill are based off of lessons learned and are the crucial next step that must be taken to advance the security of Pennsylvanians and Americans. I look forward to working with Senator Burr, with whom I co-founded and co-chair the Senate Weapons of Mass Destruction Caucus, as well as Senator Harkin, Senator Enzi and Senator Alexander to pass the Pandemic All Hazards Preparedness Act.”

“Americans know the threat of a bioterror attack or flu outbreak is real—and this bill ensures we’re prepared for that threat, that our state and federal governments and local entities are all working together and as coordinated and ready as possible,” Senator Alexander said.

This reauthorization strengthens our nation’s preparedness for and ability to respond to medical and public health emergencies, optimizes state and local all-hazards preparedness and response efforts and collaboration, enhances medical countermeasure activities, and reauthorizes key medical and public health programs, including the BioShield Special Reserve Fund.  Additional information regarding this bill can be found here.

Senators Mikulski (D-MD), Isakson (R-GA), Roberts (R-KS), and Chambliss (R-GA) are original cosponsors of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013.