In January 2021 the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense released its latest report: The Apollo Program for Biodefense. Issued in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report draws upon earlier findings of the Commission to call for a “moon shot”-style investment to prepare the US (and the world) for the ongoing reality of large-scale biological threats.
There is a global race for the development of a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Finding a vaccine that works and receives approval is only part of the process. There are a series of other steps that need to be taken so that the vaccine can be delivered. These include the mass production of the vaccine, shipment, administration and record-keeping. This may be even more complex as there may be several vaccines.
In this article we review some of these issues with a particular focus on the United States.
On June 10, 2020 the US Senate released a white paper titled “Preparing for the Next Pandemic” under the signature of Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The white paper has five recommendations to address future pandemics based on lessons learned from COVID-19 and the past 20 years of pandemic planning. “The five recommendations…along with a series of questions at the end of this white paper, are intended to elicit recommendations that Congress can consider and act on this year,” Alexander said in a statement, adding that “I am inviting comments, responses, and any additional recommendations for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to consider. This feedback will be shared with my colleagues, both Democrat and Republican.” This feedback from the public will be accepted until June 26, 2020 and can be submitted to PandemicPreparedness@help.senate.gov.
The Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) released its 2019 edition of what it hopes will be an annual report, Ready or Not: Protecting the Public’s Health from Diseases, Disasters and Bioterrorism last February. The ground-breaking report warns about key global challenges ahead, like the risk of a flu pandemic; the impact of weather pattern changes due to climate change; the dangers of antimicrobial resistance, and others, and tries to offer advice on how to prepare for them.
In Section 1 of the report, titled Health Threats: A Review of 2018, the authors review a litany of disease outbreaks, and severe weather and natural disaster events. They note the incidents, actions, and corresponding research findings, meetings, and events related to each. On the policy front, they note the September 2018 release by the White House of its National Biodefense Strategy (see earlier article on this topic). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released another report, Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Capabilities, in October 2018 (updated in January 2019). This section of the TFAH report also reviews the various activities of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense.