Biden administration unveils $ 65 billion plan to fight upcoming pandemics

U.S. President Joe Biden makes remarks on the August Jobs Report at the White House in Washington on September 3, 2021.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The Biden administration on Friday unveiled a $ 65 billion plan U.S. officials say will help the nation fight the next biological threats following the cessation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The next pandemic will likely be “substantially different” from Covid, and so the U.S. government must prepare now to deal with any future viral threat, Eric Lander, science advisor to President Joe Biden and director of the Office of Science and Technology, said. said background call with reporters Friday.

The plan – published in a 27-page document titled “Preparing for the American Pandemic: Transforming Our Capabilities” – calls for investing billions of dollars over the next decade to improve vaccines and therapeutics as well as public health infrastructure, improve capacity and real-time surveillance of the nation. and make upgrades to personal protective equipment that could be used against a wide range of pathogens.

The Biden administration’s plan was organized into five “pillars,” officials said, each addressing different parts of the public health system. It is proposing $ 15 billion to $ 20 billion to begin the administration’s efforts. The funds will go to a new “mission control” office in the Department of Health and Human Services that is closely overseen by Congress, officials say.

Lander said the current Covid pandemic has highlighted “fundamental problems” with America’s public health system, including inadequate funding and a lack of coordination between federal, state and local governments.

The nation is still struggling with the worst Covid fire in the world, with more than 39 million homes and at least 643,776 dead since Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Many recovered patients are still living with the long-term effects of the disease, he said.

“We need better capabilities … because there’s a reasonable probability that another serious pandemic, which could be worse than Covid-19, will happen soon, maybe even in the next decade,” he told reporters on the call.

Officials said the administration’s call to invest $ 65 billion is “modest” when it takes into account that the current pandemic has cost the United States an estimated $ 16 trillion in lost economic output.

It’s even smaller than what the nation spends on other programs, such as missile defense and counterterrorism, which cost U.S. taxpayers $ 20 billion and $ 170 billion a year, respectively, they say.

“If major pandemics similar to COVID-19, costing the United States about $ 16 trillion, occur at a frequency of every 20 years, the annualized economic impact on the United States would be $ 800 billion per year. “Even for slightly milder pandemics, the annualized cost would probably exceed $ 500 billion,” officials wrote in the document.

According to the document, the Biden administration’s major investment is in the development of vaccines, which have helped the nation fight serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths.

The United States will spend a total of $ 24.2 billion to develop and test new vaccines for a variety of viruses and improve vaccine distribution and manufacturing.

The plan also calls for $ 11.8 billion to be spent on therapeutics, which would allow U.S. scientists and manufacturers to develop new antivirals and other drugs and ensure large-scale manufacturing capacity for monoclonal antibody treatments. .

About $ 3.1 billion has been earmarked to promote the development of next-generation IPRs. At the time of the pandemic last year, front-line health workers were struggling as they encountered deficiencies in masks, clothing, face shields and gloves.

The plan comes as the United States heads to Labor Day weekend with just over four times as many cases of Covid-19 and more than twice as many hospitalizations as last year.

The Biden administration has said it is preparing to begin widely distributing Covid booster kernels in the week of September 20, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, after the data show vaccine protection against Covid infection.

The plan, explained by senior health officials last month, requires a third dose eight months after people receive their second shot of Pfizer or Modern vaccines.

Earlier Friday, Biden said next week that he would discuss “the next steps” to combat the delta variant.

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