New Strategy Launched for National CBRN Preparedness

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a notice March 20 saying its Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise Strategy is being put into effect. The strategy sets out a new approach for developing, acquiring, and using medical countermeasures against CBRN threats. In the notice, HHS said the strategy "seeks to craft and execute a robust, integrated, and end-to-end Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasure Enterprise that provides the Nation with an 'all hazards' capability to protect against, respond to, and enable recovery from chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attacks upon the public health."

Elements within HHS have been working on these areas for some time; the notice says funding support by NIH for work on CBRN medical countermeasures grew from $53 million in FY2001 to $1.8 billion in FY2006, and Project BioShield (signed into law in July 2004 by President Bush) has awarded contracts from its $5.6 billion special reserve fund to purchase anthrax therapeutics, anthrax vaccines, botulism antitoxin, a pediatric formulation of potassium iodide to block absorption of radioactive iodide in the thyroid gland), and Calcium- and Zinc-DTPA (to remove transuranic radionuclides from the body). Federal stockpiles contain enough smallpox vaccine to protect every American, plus antibiotics for anthrax, adult potassium iodide tablets, and supplies for treating burn and blast injuries that could be associated with a nuclear event, according to the notice, which says, "In addition to the achievements made to date, more can and must be done."

The strategy is Stage One; it excludes pandemic influenza because that is addressed in the HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan. Stage Two is the development of an implementation plan to be published in early 2007. HHS' partner agencies include department of Defense, Homeland Security, Labor, Agriculture, and others; the notice says HHS "recognizes that developing, acquiring, and utilizing medical countermeasures to prepare for and respond to CBRN events will require significant resources and unprecedented cooperation among many stakeholders," including first responders, health care workers, and the public.

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