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Jim Greenwood in The Hill: Congress Needs to Prepare for the Next Pandemic

January 18, 2017
Europe, Asia, and South Korea have all recently reported rapid outbreaks of Bird Flu. With the outbreak of Swine Flu in 2009, the United States experienced the first influenza pandemic of the 21st century and most deadly since the Spanish Flu in 1918. Pathogens are currently reaching unprecedented global breakout potential. Without federal support for innovative biodefense products like vaccines, the next public health crisis could occur – for example, if the avian influenza virus were to result in an outbreak just as easily transmittable as the seasonal flu.

In an Op-Ed appearing in The Hill, BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood points out that the Gates Foundation’s Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations warns that global travel rates regularly exceed 10 million people using airborne travel every day. These travel rates are just one factor that leave us vulnerable to an unprecedented deadly pandemic. This is not a hypothetical threat or situation – outbreaks will happen, it is just a matter of when. Preparation is key – we must ensure effective vaccines are at the ready in the event of a global outbreak.

According to Greenwood:
Ultimately, it’s the U.S. government’s job to ensure we have a response plan equal to the threat we face. Distressingly, the U.S. government right now is investing precious little in developing essential medical countermeasures, putting Americans at risk in the event of a potential pandemic.

The development, production and procurement of these life-saving medications is coordinated through a partnership between the federal government and the private sector. It is funded through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority’s (BARDA) pan flu program, which contracts with vaccine makers to research and manufacture pan flu countermeasures.

Congress should not wait to invest in appropriate, multi-year funding for BARDA’s biodefense programs. This includes vaccine R&D and the replenishment of national stockpiles. Crossing your fingers is not a preparedness strategy.

Our elected officials must act to protect the security of American families before the next public health crisis is already under way.

Read the full piece here.