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Sanders: Bill would help form better pandemic response

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(The Center Square) – As a forward-looking pandemic-focused bill was favorably reported out of committee, one Vermont senator is speaking up about how the United States must be better prepared for future pandemics.

The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Response Act has moved out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The legislation is designed to create a more robust health care workforce better equipped to respond to another pandemic.

“Over 1 million Americans died from COVID,” Sanders, who chairs the committee, said in a statement. “In fact, we lost more Americans as a result of COVID than we did in World War II. In my view, virtually every public health official in America tried their best, but it would be an understatement to say that we were tragically unprepared to respond to this crisis.”

According to the bill, the legislation would reauthorize specific programs within the Public Health Service Act when addressing public health security, all-hazards preparedness, and its response.

“Common sense dictates that we have got to do a much better job to either prevent or be much better prepared for the next pandemic,” Sanders said in a statement. “That is a major part of what this legislation does. This legislation will help us make sure that we have a capable workforce in place – not just nurses and doctors, but also public health workers, our ‘disease detectives’ – who can figure out where an outbreak is happening and set up vaccination clinics, among many other things. This legislation will help make sure that we have accurate public health data to know who is getting sick. This legislation will help make sure that we have enough medical supplies for our healthcare workers.”

The bill would temporarily reassign state and local personnel during a public health emergency, and changes language under the Public Health Service Act to remove “influenza” and replace it with “response planning,” and would add “community-based organizations, including faith-based organizations” and “other public and private entities” to the response.

“The legislation that we passed [Thursday] will not only help us in our efforts to prepare and respond to the next pandemic, it will also help us respond to natural disasters as well as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats,” Sanders said in a statement. “We will improve data collection for infectious diseases and monitor new pathogens through wastewater surveillance.”

Sanders said that under the bill, drug manufacturers would be required to report more information to the Food & Drug Administration regarding drug shortages for the federal government to respond to needs quickly.

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