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Monday, April 22nd, 2024

Senate HELP Committee to oversee three new areas U.S. public health, medical preparedness efforts

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Committee leadership for the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee announced that it would provide oversight and investigation of three new areas to improve the nation’s pandemic preparedness effort.

“More than 600,000 Americans have died as a result of novel coronavirus, but the trauma and tragedy inflicted by this pandemic is sadly not over yet,” HELP Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) said. “The Senate HELP Committee is preparing to draft legislation to implement lessons learned from COVID-19 and to address shortcomings in America’s public health architecture, medical preparedness, and future pandemic responses. As part of these investigations, Committee staff will be looking into the origins of COVID-19. This bipartisan, all-source investigation will examine the differences between a natural viral outbreak of animal origin and a possible release from a laboratory, leveraging information from federal agencies and relevant experts. Our goal is to provide a clearer picture of what we know so far about the origins of this outbreak, so we are better prepared to respond to future public health threats.”

HELP staff will begin to investigate the barriers remaining to vaccination for rural communities, communities of color, Tribes, and other underserved populations to increase vaccine equity nationwide. Additionally, the root causes of repeated supply shortages at the Strategic National Stockpile during COVID-19, as well as the H1N1 and Ebola outbreaks, will be assessed, while oversight will be provided of federal agencies and expert testimony on the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

All such efforts are meant to inform other legislation down the line, with an eye on bipartisan supervision and review of medical and public health efforts at all levels of government.

“As we continue the work of ending this pandemic, I’m determined to make sure we ask the questions about how we got to this devastating point and that we learn the lessons we need to learn, so our country is never in this situation again,” HELP Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) said. “Questions around supply shortages, vaccine equity, and biosafety are among the many we need answered. I am hopeful these new oversight efforts will help us develop policy proposals that strengthen our public health infrastructure, improve our preparedness, and help ensure a more effective and equitable response to future public health crises.”