The H1N1 pandemic caused many losses, but one favorable outcome is the opportunity to reevaluate our response capabilities on a large scale. In 2009, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius established a review program of the federal government’s emergency response capabilities. The findings and recommendations incorporated some of the lessons from last year’s H1N1 pandemic.
On Aug. 19, HHS released a report analyzing the review of the federal government’s response measures, in particular the production of medication, vaccines, equipment, and supplies required for public health emergencies. In the aftermath of the H1N1 pandemic, officials could not ignore the potential impact of a pandemic flu.
“As we conducted this review, we looked at the full range of public health threats, but after dealing with H1N1, and with H5N1—the Avian Flu—looming on the horizon, we naturally put a special focus on our flu response,” Sebelius said during her announcement of the report.
The report, The Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasure Enterprise Review: Transforming the Enterprise to Meet Long Range National Needs, has a single main overarching goal that Sebelius called “lofty, but critical.” The new strategy calls for “nimble, flexible capability to produce medical countermeasures rapidly in the face of any attack or threat, whether known or unknown, novel or reemerging, natural or intentional.”
The report also recommends greater emphasis on the needs of children and on developing valuable partnerships during a public health emergency. There are five specific areas highlighted for focus and improvement:
- Strengthen regulatory science at the Food and Drug Administration in order to decrease the time it takes for a product to move from test tube to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).
- Develop more flexible manufacturing enabling manufacturers to produce a wider range of vaccines, beyond seasonal flu vaccine.
- Nurture discoveries and innovations for countermeasures at their earliest stages by working closely with the National Institutes of Health.
- Upgrade the way vaccine is manufactured, as echoed in a report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).
- Develop a strategic investment fund for medical countermeasures.
Read more about the Enterprise Review report and the HHS Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2010–2015 at the HHS Secretary’s website.