President Biden Unveils Pandemic Preparedness Plan
The plan would help agencies spot emerging threats, beef up needed stockpiles and guard against future outbreaks.
Biden’s 10-year pandemic preparedness plan includes a full-time ‘Mission Control’ office.
Dr. Eric Lander at his swearing-in ceremony in June at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building near the White House in Washington.Credit…Al Drago/Reuters
Sept. 3, 2021Updated 4:04 p.m. ET
The White House on Friday unveiled a $65.3 billion, 10-year pandemic preparedness plan that it likened to the Apollo mission to the moon. It called on Congress to immediately allocate at least $15 billion in the budget reconciliation bill for the effort — half the amount President Biden initially proposed.
The plan, drafted by Mr. Biden’s science adviser and his National Security Council, would establish a full-time “Mission Control” office that would coordinate the work of agencies across the government to spot emerging threats and ready the nation to fight them.
“We have a tremendous amount to do for this pandemic, and we really have to think about creating capabilities that may take several years to develop, but they can be truly transformative for the next event that we will see surely in the coming decades,” said Dr. Eric Lander, one of two officials who previewed the plan for reporters.
The $15 billion would be a compromise. In March, the White House announced that its American Jobs Plan would include $30 billion for pandemic preparedness. But on Capitol Hill, where moderate Democrats are pushing to lower the price tag of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, a figure of $8 billion for pandemic preparedness has been under consideration.
Some Democrats have repeatedly called for the initial $30 billion to be included in the reconciliation package. Among them is Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington and the chairwoman of the Senate Health Committee, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. Ms. Warren and six of her Democratic colleagues recently wrote to the House and Senate leaders of both parties, calling on them to include $30 billion in the budget package.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has made clear that underinvesting in our public health infrastructure, our biomedical research pipeline and our medical supply chain has disastrous consequences,” the senators wrote.
The advocacy group Guarding Against Pandemics is also calling on Congress to put $30 billion for pandemic preparedness in the budget bill. The group fears that while there was an enormous investment in fighting Covid-19, lawmakers will give short shrift to preventing future pandemics.
Dr. Lander was joined Friday by Elizabeth Cameron, the senior director for global health security and biodefense on the National Security Council — a job she held in the Obama White House, where she drafted a preparedness document known as the pandemic playbook. She said the Biden plan “very much draws on those efforts,” as well as “on lessons from this pandemic.”
According to documents released by the White House, the plan has five central goals: improving and expanding the nation’s arsenal of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics; improving surveillance of infectious disease threats; strengthening the public health system, with a “particular focus on reducing inequities”; building up the supply chain and the stockpile, including personal protective gear; and “managing the mission,” by creating a new Mission Control office — a task Dr. Lander likened to the Apollo mission to send astronauts to the moon in the 1960s.
“If you’re getting to the moon, and you have a great booster rocket but you haven’t got a capsule capable of landing work computers capable of directing, it’s not going to work,” he said.