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Monday, July 22nd, 2024

Bipartisan bill would help better detect, contain overseas pandemics

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U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) last week introduced legislation designed to better detect and contain infectious disease outbreaks overseas before they become global pandemics.

The Global Health Security and Diplomacy Act (GHSDA) requires the president to advance a comprehensive Global Health Security Strategy with clear goals, objectives, and lines of responsibility to better guide U.S. investments in global health security. Further, it establishes a coordinator for global health security and diplomacy at the Department of State to manage program coordination. Also, it encourages the president to appoint a senior director for global health security to the National Security Council to coordinate the interagency process.

“We must prioritize global health security the way we would any other national security threat,” Cardin said. “The coronavirus pandemic has made the global threat of infectious diseases clearer than ever – COVID-19 anywhere is a threat to everyone in the world. We are only as strong as the weakest health system, so we must work around the globe to curtail threats to public health and bolster our security at home.”

The bill also authorizes USAID’s disaster surge capacity and establishes the agency as the program lead on emergency humanitarian response. In addition, it authorizes U.S. participation in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, as well as other innovative partnerships and financing mechanisms, including through the establishment of Trust Fund for Global Health Security.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, once again, that infectious diseases respect no borders – an outbreak anywhere in the world can quickly become a threat everywhere, including to American lives and the U.S. homeland,” Risch said. “In order to better detect, deter, and contain infectious disease outbreaks before they become global pandemics, we need a strategically planned, carefully coordinated approach toward global health security that closes the gaps that threaten us all.”

GHSDA has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Global Citizen, the Global Health Council (GHC), the GHC Global Health Security Roundtable, the Global Health Technologies Coalition, Global Water 2020, Management Sciences for Health, the ONE Campaign, and PATH.

“It took only six months for COVID-19 to wreak havoc across the globe and effectively shut down the American economy. If this isn’t an advertisement for why the United States needs to rebuild its international health footprint, then I don’t know what is,” Murphy said. “COVID-19 has made it clear that if we don’t stop this virus everywhere, then we haven’t stopped it anywhere. While we should be focusing efforts on fighting coronavirus in the short-term, we also need an active presence abroad to deter, detect, and stop future outbreaks in their infancy. The GHSDA does just that by authorizing $3 billion toward rebuilding our country’s pandemic defense system, investing in global vaccine efforts, and helping countries with weak health systems build up their capacity to combat infectious diseases from spreading.”