President Biden is committed to combatting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Building Back Better for the next biological threat. As part of this responsibility, the United States must lean forward and catalyze the advances in science, technology, and core capabilities required to protect the Nation against future and potentially catastrophic biological threats, whether naturally-occurring, accidental, or deliberate.
We must seize the opportunity to ready ourselves for the biological threats on the horizon. Investing to avert or mitigate the huge toll of future pandemics and other biological threats is an economic and moral imperative. The cost of pandemic prevention pales in comparison to the enormous cost – in lives and in economic cost – of a pandemic. It’s hard to imagine a higher return on national investment.
On January 20, the President directed a whole-of-government review of U.S. national biopreparedness policies and re-established the National Security Council Directorate on Global Health Security and Biodefense. Today, we are releasing a plan for transforming U.S. capabilities to prepare for and respond rapidly and effectively to future pandemics and other high consequence biological threats. This plan is a core element of the larger strategy to bolster and resource pandemic readiness and biodefense.
This plan, laid out in American Pandemic Preparedness: Transforming our Capabilities, lays out a set of urgent needs and opportunities in five key areas necessary to protect the United States against biological threats:
I. Transforming our Medical Defenses, including dramatically improving and expanding our arsenal of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
II. Ensuring Situational Awareness about infectious-disease threats, for both early warning and real-time monitoring.
III. Strengthening Public Health Systems, both in the U.S. and internationally to be able to respond to emergencies, with a particular focus on reducing inequities and protecting the most vulnerable communities.
IV. Building Core Capabilities, including personal protective equipment, stockpiles and supply chains, biosafety and biosecurity, and regulatory improvement.
V. Managing the Mission, with seriousness of purpose, commitment, and accountability akin to the Apollo mission, which brought our astronauts to the moon decades ago.
This work will include, from the outset, a strong focus on ensuring equity and access by all Americans to the resulting advances.
Because transforming our capabilities will take time, it is imperative that we start now.
Achieving these capabilities will require a systematic effort and shared vision for biological preparedness across our government. Like any ambitious endeavor – whether the Apollo mission or the Human Genome Project that cracked the code of human genetics – transforming our nation’s pandemic preparedness will take serious, sustained commitment and ambitious accountability. And like those efforts, it is likely to yield benefits beyond the original mission – in this case advances in human health and providing tools that could overcome health inequities and ensure equitable access to innovative products.
In addition to this plan’s efforts to strengthen public health in the context of pandemic preparedness, we also must address the broader need to strengthen the U.S. public health system and reinvigorate our public health workforce. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to efforts to support our public health workforce and to prevent the types of public health inequities revealed by COVID-19.
Over the next several weeks, we will be building on this vision as we finalize our whole-of-government biopreparedness review, continue to learn from COVID-19, and commit ourselves to a biodefense and pandemic readiness strategy that builds back better in the United States and around the world for this pandemic and the next.