Stay ahead of developments in federal and state health care law, regulation and transactions with timely, expert news and analysis.
Congress should boost funding for vaccine production and establish a contingency fund to improve the nation’s ability to respond to public health threats, experts told Congress.
A “rapid response” fund for public health emergencies, dedicated funding for medical countermeasures such as flu vaccines, and continued support for other countries’ infectious disease response capability are all needed, public health representatives in government, academia, and the private sector said at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing Jan. 23.
The committee held a second hearing in as many weeks ahead of work Congress will do this year to reauthorize the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), a groundbreaking law establishing and consolidating public health programs to address threats such as pandemics and bioterrorism.
A rapid response fund would be a dedicated pot of money available to pay for responding to public health emergencies, similar to the disaster relief fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency accesses. A fund of up to $1 billion would be appropriate, said Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“If you base contingency funding on what we’ve spent in other infectious disease emergencies, we typically have spent $500 million to $1 billion as a country in response to H9N1 [flu virus], Ebola, Zika, sometimes much more,” Inglesby said.
A number of committee members noted the severity of this year’s flu season and asked how well the country is prepared to respond to an actual pandemic or another type of threat.
“While this is a particularly bad flu season, it doesn’t come close to what we’d see on a much larger-scale infectious disease emergency or a pandemic flu scenario,” said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). “Our health care sector is already near capacity with this flu season, so we’re woefully unprepared to respond to a mass-casualty biological event.”
Pandemic vaccine stockpiles have dwindled as funding has dried up, said Brent MacGregor, senior vice president of commercial operations for flu vaccine maker Seqirus and co-chair of the Alliance for Biosecurity.Up until 2009, sufficient funding allowed a sufficient stockpile of pandemic flu vaccines to be built up, but “since then, the funding has really dropped off,” MacGregor said, and what is in stock is aging.
“There’s product that sits in the stockpile today that was manufactured quite some time ago—in some cases, seven, eight years ago—and our ability and the ability of the government to replenish the stockpile has been diminished by the lack of sustainable funding.”
PAHPA funding should also support the development and retention of a robust public health workforce, panelists said.
“They need certainty in the profession being there tomorrow,” said John J. Dreyzehner, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health. “And that’s not been the case for the last 15 years.”
Dreyzehner said public health workers have other, more lucrative options, “but they really like these jobs.”
“I think the nation’s national security would be well-served to recognize the passion of these professionals, the experience that they’ve gained, the relationships that they’ve built, and the lives and property that they’ve saved in the last 15 years since” PAHPA was first passed, he said.
Infectious disease specialists also support a rapid response fund and funding for public health workforce development, as well as more funding for antibiotics, Amanda Jezek, vice president of public policy and government relations for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, told Bloomberg Law in a Jan. 22 interview.
“Reauthorization with the highest possible funding levels for the programs included under PAHPA is going to be really important,” Jezek said. “This is the legislation that authorizes programs that protect all of us from natural and man-made public health threats, everything from bioterror events to pandemic influenza to the infectious disease complications of hurricanes, which we’ve become all too familiar with recently.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Langlois in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Randy Kubetin at firstname.lastname@example.org
A video of the hearing is at http://src.bna.com/vP5.
Copyright © 2018 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)