Although his armed forces have lost ground in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has become a growing threat to global security. Last month he delivered “the most serious escalation” of his war via the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory and dangerous nuclear rhetoric, warning that he is ready to use any means necessary against what he perceives as threats from the West.
US military leaders take Putin at his word. Former U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen called Putin a “cornered animal” who is becoming “increasingly dangerous.”
It is a stark reminder that America must be prepared for any public health emergency that may arise, whether natural or intentional, chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear.
It brings some comfort to know that we have protection against a potential bioterrorist attack in the form of vaccines and treatments stored in the National Strategic Stock. In fact, these same tools are currently being used to combat the current epidemic of a much less deadly relative of smallpox, monkeypox. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of monkeypox cases is just over 28,000 and demand for vaccines and treatments remains high.
On October 18, the Biden administration released its comprehensive plan to protect the nation from future pandemics and biological threats. It includes 20 different federal agencies working together to detect future threats, respond to outbreaks and help the economy recover from an incident. But the solid plan requires solid funding. Congress must follow.
Recently, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing to review the federal response to monkeypox. President Patty Murray (D-WA) reiterated the importance of preparedness funding, saying “[W]We need to have our eyes clear on what has gone wrong, not just on the challenges we have faced over the past few months, but which we have faced for decades,” adding that millions of vials of vaccine smallpox in the SNS had not been replenished as they expired.
Ranking member Richard Burr (R-NC) highlighted the coordination saying, “We need a cohesive and cohesive government-wide response to be effective. And Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Dawn O’Connell, insisted: “It is important, however, that as we move forward in our response, we look at ways to preserve our smallpox capacity.” They are all right.
Congress must appropriate the necessary funds to prevent monkeypox from becoming endemic in our country and also to ensure that the SNS is replenished so that we are fully prepared to deal with potentially more dangerous public health threats. in the future. The stakes are too high not to act.
The treatments and vaccines that fight monkeypox are the same as those used to fight smallpox. While the disease was declared eradicated in 1980, just one new case anywhere in the world would be devastating Simply put: investing in monkeypox prevention is investing in smallpox prevention. And as we’ve learned in recent months, the reverse is also true.
We are fortunate to have tools for fighting monkeypox available in the SNS; their replenishment is imperative. In 2001, the US Department of Health and Human Services decided to ensure that there were over 285 million doses of smallpox vaccine available in stock, enough to vaccinate all Americans at the time. . To date, that number is closer to 100 million.
The SNS was originally created to respond to a foreign attack. Between the constant threat of global terrorism and despots like Vladimir Putin attacking its neighbors, America must remain vigilant. We must not ignore these threats, especially as Putin enlists thousands more troops, launches nuclear threats and escalates his war in Ukraine.
A specific funding bill will provide needed resources, vaccines and treatments to communities that still need them for the current monkeypox outbreak. At the same time, this funding will also ensure that these tools from the SNS are replenished so that we are prepared for a possible future smallpox outbreak or bioterrorist attack.
It’s not one or the other. We owe an immense debt of gratitude to the strategic public-private partnerships created to ensure that the United States is prepared for potential future threats to public health. They provide our security today and will continue to do so, if appropriate funding is provided, in the future.
Before the end of the year, Congress will finalize strong appropriations legislation. This spending legislation should include specific funding for monkeypox and additional funds to complement the SNS. COVID has forced us to pay the price for poor preparation; the future could have far more costly consequences if we ignore the lessons learned.
Former Congressman Jack Kingston serves as secretariat for theAlliance for Biosecurity, a coalition of biopharmaceutical companies and laboratory/academic partners that promotes strong public-private partnership to ensure the availability of medical countermeasures to protect public health and enhance national security. He represented Georgia’s First Congressional District in Georgia from 1993 to 2015.
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