Washington, DC Update

Posted 14 September 2021

Despite the pandemic’s limitations on in-person meetings and events on Capitol Hill, ASTMH continues to advocate before Congress and the Biden administration. Letters that ASTMH led or joined include:
  • A stakeholder letter led by IDSA, Trust for America’s Health  and Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS) to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in support of continuing the current federal requirement for mask wearing on public transportation.
  • A letter with IDSA, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, BIO, Partnership to Fight Infectious Diseases and the Pew Charitable Trusts to the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee urging subcommittee members to convene a hearing on the worsening crisis of antimicrobial resistance.
  • A coalition of over 25 organizations including ASTMH sent an open letter to world leaders urging them to convene a global summit during the UN General Assembly and commit to making 7 billion doses of high-quality vaccines available before the end of 2021 and an additional 7 billion doses by mid-2022 to ensure that every country is ready to implement vaccination programs at scale by the end of 2021. 
  • A letter to the House Judiciary Committee with 30 organizations requesting that additional EB visas be created for international STEM students and scholars as part of the budget reconciliation legislative package.
  • An endorsement letter for a bicameral resolution introduced by Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA) and Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) commemorating the 75th anniversary of the CDC.

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Biden Administration Pandemic Preparedness Plan
CDC Announces New Tool to Track Outbreaks
Global Summit on COVID-19 Response

Biden Administration Pandemic Preparedness Plan
On September 3, the Biden administration announced an ambitious $65 billion plan aimed at preparing and protecting the United States from future pandemics. The multibillion-dollar plan includes significantly expanding the supply of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic tests. In addition, the preparedness plan includes an overhaul of FDA regulatory processes to streamline warning and monitoring capabilities and ramp up the supply of personal protective equipment. The administration is requesting that an initial $15 billion be provided through the budget reconciliation bill that’s currently being negotiated in Congress. The administration intends for the remainder of the $65 billion plan to be funded through congressional appropriations. The American Pandemic Preparedness plan focuses on five key pillars of success:
  • Transforming U.S. Medical Defenses: $24.2 billion for vaccine development, manufacturing, and distribution, $11.8 billion to develop therapeutics and $5 billion for diagnostic testing
  • Ensuring Situational Awareness: $3.1 billion for early warning systems and an additional $2.3 billion for real-time virus monitoring
  • Strengthening Public Health Systems: $6.5 billion to strengthen domestic and global public health infrastructure
  • Building Core Capacities: $3.1 billion to develop and boost production of PPE and $1.6 billion to streamline the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory process.
  • Managing the Mission: $800 million to support efforts to executive the Pandemic Preparedness Plan and to create a unified program management unit within the Department of Health and Human Services to dramatically improve global engagement on pandemic prevention measures
CDC Announces New Tool to Track Outbreaks
In late August, the CDC announced the creation of a new center to forecast and analyze disease outbreaks in an effort to make data and information on current outbreaks more accessible to lawmakers and individuals in the public health sector. The new Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics will be initially funded from the American Rescue Plan and will maintain three key functions: real-time action and prediction through advanced modeling and forecasting, expanding data sharing and integration within the public health ecosystem, and improving communication with public health decision-makers, lawmakers and business leaders. It will be staffed with researchers from academic institutions and private companies and is set to kick off with four epidemiologists and mathematical modelers, including Marc Lipsitch and Rebecca Kahn from Harvard’s School of Public Health, Caitlin Rivers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Dylan George from the Boston-based biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks. “We are excited to have the expertise and ability to model and forecast public health concerns and share information in real-time to activate governmental, private sector and public actions,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
Global Summit on COVID-19 Response
According to multiple sources, the Biden administration plans to propose a global summit focused on the international pandemic response and efforts to increase vaccinations globally. The summit would reportedly be scheduled around the week of September 20th to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly. Several countries have been notified of plans to hold the summit; however, formal invitations have not yet been sent. While increasing vaccine supply to developing countries and other areas of the globe struggling with the spread of the Delta variant is expected to be the number one focus, other areas of discussion may include boosting the supply of oxygen to countries in need and improving global cooperation on research and development related to the virus. The rumored announcement comes a week after ASTMH joined with dozens of organizations and global health leaders in an open letter to President Biden and G20 leaders on the need to convene a summit.