HELP Committee Taking Up Pandemic Bill This Week

S. 1855, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act Reauthorization of 2011, a reauthorization to build on the 2006 law that strengthened public health preparedness for a pandemic, is included in the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's Dec. 14 executive session.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) has scheduled an executive session the morning of Dec. 14 to take up several nominations and also S. 1855, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act Reauthorization of 2011, which is a reauthorization to build on the 2006 law that strengthened public health preparedness for a pandemic or other major public health emergency.

A committee member, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced the bill Nov. 10 and soon had a bipartisan group of 10 other senators as co-sponsors, including six HELP members.

"The threats facing our nation are serious and we must address them accordingly. The American people expect us to do all that we can to prevent an attack and, if one should occur, be fully prepared to respond, including having safe and effective medical countermeasures readily available. While key progress has been made since PAHPA was signed into law, more work remains to be done," Burr said when he introduced the bill. "This legislation redoubles our efforts to protect the American people by strengthening our existing programs and making targeted improvements in areas in which we know we must do better, including ensuring that our nation's medical countermeasure enterprise reflects and is prepared to respond to modern-day threats."

Harkin said the reauthorization "builds on a record of bipartisan cooperation that has strengthened our ability to respond to medical and public health emergencies over the past decade. Applying lessons we've learned during the past few years, this bill enhances existing programs and authorities by ensuring that the needs of at-risk populations, in particular individuals with disabilities, are met when preparing for public health emergencies such as pandemic flu or threats from chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents, whether naturally occurring or manmade."

The bill would reauthorize the Strategic National Stockpile and the BioShield Special Reserve Fund. At the same time the bill was introduced, Burr and three colleagues also introduced the Medical Surge Capacity Act. This would help to optimize hospitals' responses to emerging medical needs arising from a public health or national emergency, they said.

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