Capitol Correspondence - 05.09.23

Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on Public Health Emergency Preparedness

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On May 4, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing entitled “Preparing for the Next Public Health Emergency: Reauthorizing the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act.” The hearing aimed to assess the nation’s preparedness for the next public health emergency and evaluate the need to reauthorize the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA). The hearing featured two panels of witnesses, including senior-level staff from the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

ASPR presented their goals for the reauthorization of PAHPA, stating that they are seeking additional authorities to more rapidly procure the necessary resources to handle public health emergencies and build their workforce. The ASPR also emphasized the need for greater flexibility in responding to future emergencies, as well as the importance of investing in preparedness efforts before a crisis occurs.

The CDC expressed their desire to modernize their data infrastructure and improve the collection and submission of data to more efficiently deliver interventions to those most in need during future pandemics and crises. By upgrading their data collection and analysis capabilities, the CDC hopes to better identify and respond to emerging public health threats.

The FDA stressed the importance of requiring drug and equipment manufacturers to report surges in demand to better handle equipment shortages during times of crisis. By having this information, the FDA can more effectively manage shortages and ensure that critical resources are available when needed.

During the hearing, members of the HELP Committee expressed concerns with vaccine and drug price increases after the end of the Public Health Emergency, as well as concerns around the credibility of our national agencies and their ability to address future emergencies. These concerns were echoed by some of the witnesses, who emphasized the need for increased investment in preparedness and response efforts to ensure that the nation is better equipped to handle future public health emergencies.

Overall, the hearing highlighted the importance of reauthorizing the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act to better prepare for future public health emergencies. By investing in preparedness efforts and modernizing data collection and analysis capabilities, the nation can better respond to emerging public health threats and protect the health and safety of all Americans.