The AAMC submitted comments on Feb. 4 to Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-N.C.) regarding their draft legislation, the Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act (PREVENT Pandemics Act).
The discussion draft, released on Jan. 25, follows a call for stakeholder input from April 2021, to which the AAMC submitted extensive recommendations on how to harness lessons learned from COVID-19 to better prepare for future pandemics [refer to Washington Highlights, Jan. 28].
In addition to responding to specific provisions of the draft legislation, the AAMC letter highlighted four broad recommendations to guide the continued development of the legislation and urged the committee to:
- Include robust and sustained funding for public health infrastructure.
- Ensure that the legislation includes measures to improve clinical preparedness, in particular by investing in flexible surge capacity, expanding existing networks to address special pathogens and disaster response, expanding telehealth, and bolstering the health care workforce.
- Incorporate a focus on health equity throughout the draft legislation.
- Leverage academic medicine’s expertise as a key stakeholder in preparing for future pandemics.
The AAMC also highlighted its support for the inclusion in the draft of the Tracking Pathogens Act (S. 3534), previously introduced by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Bill Cassidy, MD (R-La.). The AAMC joined 35 institutional, organizational, and industry stakeholders in a Feb. 4 letter in support of the bill, which aims to support and enhance existing genomic sequencing and surveillance activities overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a proposed $175 million investment for the Advanced Molecular Detection program.
The AAMC also submitted comments on Jan. 31 to a request for information from the Healthy Future Task Force Security Subcommittee regarding pandemic preparedness recommendations. The effort is part of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) seven task forces, which have been given a charge to develop policy on specific topics of interest.
A timeline for the HELP Committee to mark up the draft legislation has not been determined, though Murray and Burr noted previously that they would work with other members of the committee to incorporate additional provisions in the draft before full committee consideration.