In a vote from the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, U.S. Rep. Bob Latta’s (R-OH) Helping Evaluate Appropriate Logistical Infrastructure for National Government (HEALING) Response Act (H.R. 3703) was cleared as part of a broader reauthorization legislation.
Latta’s bill, as included in the Pandemic and All-Hazard Preparedness (PAHPA) Reauthorization Act, would help guarantee the U.S. was domestically prepared to mass produce medical countermeasures in the face of public health emergencies or health threats – avoiding some of the pitfalls that stymied COVID-19 response efforts. It would require the U.S. Comptroller General to both review and provide recommendations on existing programs and pushes to domestically produce medical countermeasures, such as the Centers for Innovation and Advanced Drug Manufacturing, the National Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Partnership, and Industrial Base Expansion Connect.
“The time to plan for emergencies is before they arise, especially when it comes to Americans’ health and safety,” Latta said. “Once a public health threat is evident, it is important to be able to appropriately address this situation as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to save lives. The HEALING Response Act will ensure our health care system has the ability and capacity to mass produce medical countermeasures faster upon the announcement of a public health emergency or threat.”
The next stop is the full Energy and Commerce Committee. Its inclusion in PAHPA wraps it up in legislation first approved in 2006, as a means to improve national health security and public health preparedness. While the latter has been reauthorized and revised numerous times since then, it has not always kept up with the times. Now, lawmakers want to make sure it contains lessons learned from prior public health emergency responses and improves federal emergency response programs.
“As we reflect on the tragedy our country endured because of COVID-19, we are left wondering if our government is prepared to address another pandemic,” said U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), who is co-leading the bill alongside Latta. “We can’t just go on offense against the next pandemic, we need to build our defensive systems now to save lives later.”