The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the bipartisan Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing (PAHPA) Innovation Act of 2019, which now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature to make it law.
S. 1379, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) on May 8, will strengthen the nation’s health security strategy, improve preparedness and response, bolster the country’s emergency response workforce, prioritize a threat-based approach, and increase communication in medical countermeasure advanced research and development, among numerous other provisions contained in the sweeping legislation.
“This was long overdue, and sorely needed,” said U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), ranking member of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has pushed to advance the measure since the introduction and House approval on Jan. 8 of the companion bill, H.R. 269, by U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
The reconciled S. 1379 — a combination of both chambers’ versions that last month received U.S. Senate approval — “is a longstanding, bipartisan national security priority,” Walden said, noting that PAHPA should have been approved before its Sept. 30, 2018 expiration.
“I’m glad our nation’s public health infrastructure programs have been reauthorized and extended so that our federal, state and local officials have the tools they need to respond quickly and effectively to emerging and ongoing threats — whether they are natural or man-made,” he said this afternoon.
With the newly reauthorized PAHPA, the United States will be better prepared to respond to a wide range of public health emergencies, including man-made or those occurring because of a natural disaster or infectious disease, according to Rep. Brooks. She added that PAHPA complements the National Biodefense Strategy that the Trump administration released last fall.
“The critically important legislation … works to make our nation better prepared for and able to keep Americans safer in response to natural disasters or biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear threats to our public health and national security,” Rep. Brooks said.
The congresswoman pointed out that the legislation will ensure health care professionals are trained to respond to possible pandemic outbreaks and will prioritize ongoing development of the Strategic National Stockpile of vaccines, medical equipment and diagnostics.
Specifically, the legislation is focused on protecting vulnerable populations, such as children, people with disabilities and senior citizens, before and during a public health emergency, she added.
The measure also codifies the duties of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), which will oversee and work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in emergency and response activities.
For instance, the legislation requires ASPR to develop guidelines within two years to inform regional systems of hospitals and health care facilities to treat patients affected by chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear threats, including emerging infectious diseases, and to bolster medical surge capabilities and capacity, according to a summary of the legislation.
Additionally, S. 1379 will authorize the ASPR, in consultation with the U.S. Secretary of Defense, to award grants to trauma centers so military trauma teams assigned there can provide care.
Among numerous other provisions, PAHPA also reauthorizes funding to improve bioterrorism and other public health emergency preparedness and response activities, such as the Hospital Preparedness Program, the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement, Project BioShield, and BARDA for the advanced research and development of medical countermeasures.
“The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act better equips our federal agencies to respond to new and emerging threats that jeopardize our national security and public health,” Rep. Eshoo said. “I applaud the House and Senate’s bipartisan commitment to strengthening our nation’s existing preparedness and response programs and I look forward to the president signing this important bill into law.”
Rep. Walden also said that PAHPA will enable vital partnerships between the federal government, state and local authorities, and the private sector to help ensure responsible preparedness and response to public health emergencies.
“We all know how serious this threat is and how important it is for us to work together to address it,” Walden said on the House floor prior to the vote. “It is not a matter of if … but when the next pandemic or emergency will strike. From the pandemic flu to cybersecurity incidents, our government agencies at all levels must have the tools to respond to these threats and we must make sure they have them.”