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Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

Bicameral legislators introduce measure to protect U.S. from COVID variants

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On Wednesday, U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined U.S. Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) to introduce legislation that would expand the U.S. response to the coronavirus on an international level.

The Nullifying Opportunities for Variants to Infect and Decimate (NOVID) Act would help increase prevention and vaccination efforts in low- to middle-income countries to reduce new strains and outbreaks of COVID-19.

“The coronavirus crisis is a global emergency that can’t be tackled in one country alone. That’s why it’s critically important that we remember that while life is feeling more and more normal in America, this pandemic is still causing unfathomable destruction in communities around the world,” Merkley said. “Helping the world drastically increase vaccine manufacturing and access is not only the right thing to do, but it will help keep Americans safer by decreasing the risk of dangerous, vaccine-resistant variants emerging and coming to our shores. This is a crucial opportunity for us to show American leadership is back, at a time when the world needs that leadership most.”

The legislation would also create the Pandemic Preparedness and Response Program (PanPREP) to coordinate U.S. efforts and investments in increased production, procurement, and distribution of Covid vaccines. That program would coordinate the U.S. government’s response with foreign governments, international non-governmental organizations, and others. Once the current pandemic is over, the program’s mission would shift to protecting against future pandemics through a coordinated global disease surveillance network that would help stop future outbreaks before they begin to spread.

The bill authorizes $34 billion in funding – $25 billion for scaling manufacturing capacity and producing 8 billion vaccine doses; $8.5 billion for delivery of enough vaccines to immunize 60 percent of the population in low- and middle-income countries; and $500 million to establish a global disease surveillance network.

The legislation is sponsored by several groups, including Public Citizen, International Medical Corps, Islamic Relief USA, Partners In Health, PrEP4All, HelpAge USA, Physicians for Human Rights, Doctors for America, Advocacy Network for Africa, American Friends Service Committee, The Access Challenge, Mennonite Central Committee U.S., Chicago Medical Society, Asian American Hotel Owners Association, The United Methodist Church—General Board of Church and Society, US Impact, American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and the American Medical Women’s Association.