PREVENT Pandemics Act aims to improve public health preparedness and response

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As new COVID-19 variants continue emerging, there’s a bipartisan effort to make sure we’re better prepared for the next major health crisis.

It’s called the PREVENT Pandemics Act and it outlines new ways for improving public health responses at the federal level.

Senators say they spent the last year reviewing what didn’t work well as the federal government responded to the pandemic.

Now they have a lengthy piece of legislation that addresses problems ranging from medical supply chain issues for masks and vaccines to updating the FDA approval process for COVID-19 tests.

“No one wants to go through this, again, our families don’t our communities don’t, our economy doesn’t,” said Senator Patty Murray, (D) Washington State.

She’s working with Republican Senator Richard Burr on this new bill that tackles various aspects of public health preparedness.

This includes improving capabilities for detecting diseases, rebuilding the health workforce, and addressing health disparities in at-risk populations.

“One of the problems we found was that CDC was not collecting data by demographic base, so we didn’t know if communities of color were being hit harder. We put into this bill the process to make sure we’re collecting that data and getting that information right away,” said Murray.

Another part of the bill focuses on CDC oversight.

“Demanding accountability and transparency from the CDC is a critical first step to ensuring that the agency provides clear and timely recommendations that Americans find trustworthy,” said Senator Burr, (R) North Carolina, in a recent statement.

Burr said people have stopped listening to CDC “because of their confusing and conflicting guidance.”

Murray said FDA approvals should also become more diverse.

“When they do FDA approvals that they’re looking at a diverse set of people. What about pregnant women? What about women of color? What about people who are tribal members? What are people in a specific demographic death data? How are we making sure that whether it’s the test, or the therapeutics or the vaccines are being tested in all of these communities, so everyone has the best information for themselves,” said Murray.

The proposal would also require the next CDC Director to be confirmed by the Senate and an agency-wide strategic plan.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 20-2 for the legislation and Senator Murray said they’re working to get a full Senate vote soon.

This legislation comes as the CDC is about go under review. Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the Department of Health will conduct a sweeping review starting next Monday.

The PREVENT Pandemics Act includes the following steps:

  • Improving strategy and coordination among public health preparedness agencies;
  • Improving capabilities to detect and monitor emerging infectious diseases and other threats;
  • Enhancing the development and review of tests, treatments, and vaccines, and mitigating critical shortages of medical products;
  • Improving public health communication and addressing misinformation
  • Revitalizing the public and community health workforce;
  • Accelerating biomedical research to develop medical countermeasures for pandemic threats, and enhance research on the long-term effects of COVID-19 and faster test development;
  • Ensuring continued access to mental health and substance use disorder services during public health emergency responses; and,
  • Establishing an independent task force to conduct a comprehensive review of the COVID-19 response; and
  • Addressing disparities that make public health emergencies harder on at-risk populations and communities.