U.S. Reps. Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) recently introduced legislation to improve the ability of the U.S. to handle current and future biothreats.
The Strengthening Public Health Emergency Response Act of 2015 would transform U.S. preparedness by encouraging research dedicated to fighting the next generation of dangerous and deadly illnesses, and transforming the U.S. medical countermeasure acquisition process, while also improving accountability for expenses invested in the nation’s preparedness.
“Our nation is dangerously ill prepared to combat current and emerging biothreats,” Brooks said. " We are extremely vulnerable to threats posed by terrorist groups and rogue nations stockpiling bioweapons. Moreover, the recent Ebola crisis taught us just how unsatisfactory our defense mechanisms are for global pandemics originating in other parts of the world.
Brooks said the most recent Biothreat report card issued by the nonpartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center gave the U.S. 15 F’s for its levels of preparedness.
"This legislation will transform and improve our ability to respond to these threats by ensuring effective vaccines are developed and available when disaster strikes," Brooks said.
Among the changes proposed by the legislation are: reforming the tropical disease Priority Review Voucher program so that it includes all material threats identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, including anthrax, Ebola, botulism, and smallpox; requiring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to unify their Strategic National Stockpile plans; and streamlining BARDA’s contract process to stop unneeded delays in procuring medical countermeasures.
“Any gaps in our biodefense preparedness regime are simply unacceptable,” Eshoo, the author of the 2006 legislation that created BARDA, said. “In the wake of the most recent Ebola outbreak in western Africa, we know firsthand how unchecked threats can result in severe and deadly consequences. This bipartisan bill takes steps to ensure that this scenario will not be a reality for Americans. It reforms and modernizes our nation’s leading biodefense agency, and it keeps our country at the cutting edge of medical countermeasure acquisition and development.”