On September 3, the Biden Administration released a plan for “transforming U.S. capabilities to prepare for and respond rapidly and effectively to future pandemics and other high consequence biological threats.” This plan is an element of the larger strategy to bolster and resource pandemic readiness and biodefense, as directed by President Biden in January.
“For the first time in our history, we have the opportunity—due to advances in science and technology— not just to refill our stockpiles, but also to transform our capabilities,” according to the White House plan. “However, we need to start preparing now. The United States must fundamentally transform its ability to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to pandemics and high consequence biological threats.”
The plan notes the seriousness of biological threats, as evidenced by the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic and those before it.
“There is a reasonable likelihood that another serious pandemic that may be worse than COVID-19 will occur soon — possibly within the next decade,” wrote the Administration. “Unless we make transformative investments in pandemic preparedness now, we will not be meaningfully prepared.”
This plan, laid out in American Pandemic Preparedness: Transforming our Capabilities, is organized across five pillars or urgency:
- Transforming our Medical Defenses, including dramatically improving and expanding our arsenal of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
- Ensuring Situational Awareness about infectious disease threats, for both early warning and real-time monitoring.
- Strengthening Public Health Systems, both in the U.S. and internationally to be able to respond to emergencies, with a particular focus on reducing inequities and protecting the most vulnerable communities.
- Building Core Capabilities, including personal protective equipment (PPE), stockpiles and supply chains, biosafety and biosecurity, and regulatory improvement.
- Managing the Mission, with the seriousness of purpose, commitment, and accountability akin to the Apollo mission, which brought our astronauts to the moon decades ago.
How Does PPE Fit into the Plan?
Having effective, comfortable, and affordable PPE is a goal under the 4th strategic pillar – Building Core Capabilities. The plan will focus on:
PPE Innovation: Develop solutions that increase the effectiveness, comfort, reusability, affordability, and manufacturability, including warm or surge capability, of PPE, to provide protection against pathogens with a range of properties.
Pathogen protection within the built environment: Develop and deploy new technologies to improve indoor air quality, surface materials, and related aspects of transportation, buildings, and other infrastructure to suppress pathogen transmission among people. Invest in retrofitting high-risk infrastructure and incentivize private sector adoption of built environment pathogen suppression technologies for public protection.
Also under this strategic pillar is the goal to restore and expand the ability of the United States to produce the vital supplies to stop the next pandemic in its tracks. The plan will focus on:
Refilling stockpiles. Refill stockpiles that have been depleted by the current pandemic, to avoid near-term shortages while building longer-term onshore and near-shore manufacturing capacity for essential medical supplies.
Building resilient supply chains. Ensure a stable and secure supply chain for key active ingredients for making vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics and for personal protective equipment.
Funding the Plan
The total cost of the plan is $65.3 billion, to be invested over 7 to 10 years. While the bulk of the budget is reserved for vaccines, $5.2 billion is earmarked for PPE and supply capacity.