Modern Healthcare - Congress

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) Harnessing the public and private sectors to battle a pandemic

- By Rep. Greg Walden

Earlier this year, Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and I found ourselves in a unique position to help the country respond to COVID-19 pandemic. In my role as the House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican leader and Rep. Guthrie’s role as Oversight and Investigat­ions Subcommitt­ee Republican leader, we—along with Health Subcommitt­ee Republican Leader Dr. Michael Burgess (R-Texas)—help oversee federal department­s and agencies like HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administra­tion.

This spring, we launched the Second Wave Preparedne­ss Project to provide recommenda­tions to help better position the country in the fight against COVID-19, especially as we approach flu season.

Every day counts during this pandemic, and the goal of the Second Wave Preparedne­ss Project has been to study every aspect of this pandemic and determine what’s needed to save lives, resources and time. Developing policy recommenda­tions in the middle of a pandemic in some ways felt like we were building the plane as we were flying it, but my committee has a long, bipartisan tradition of working to better prepare the country for emergencie­s. Last year, we sent the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedne­ss and Advancing Innovation Act to President Donald Trump for his signature, which reauthoriz­ed critical public health preparedne­ss and response programs.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administra­tion has worked around the clock to harness public and private sector resources. Through Operation Warp Speed—a whole-of-government effort combined with the power of private sector innovation to develop and then deliver millions of doses of a vaccine to Americans—we’re seeing record progress being made toward a vaccine.

Through committee oversight, I’ve had the opportunit­y to not only develop recommenda­tions to help streamline the response effort, but also to speak to many public health experts on the front lines of this pandemic. I’ve left those conversati­ons feeling confident that, despite the breakneck speed at which we are moving, the safety and efficacy of vaccines and therapeuti­cs will not be compromise­d.

Meanwhile, there are lessons learned and opportunit­ies for efficienci­es, which is why we made recommenda­tions through the Second Wave Preparedne­ss Project.

These recommenda­tions complement the administra­tion’s ongoing efforts to defeat COVID-19, and I’m pleased some of them have already been implemente­d.

The three pillars of this project examine testing and surveillan­ce; vaccine and therapeuti­cs; and the nation’s healthcare supply chain. With testing, for instance, we examined the kinds of testing available, how they should be used and what types of tests we still need to develop, anticipate­d supply shortages, and how to better target testing and surveillan­ce efforts. This will be especially important as we head into flu season.

For the next pillar on vaccine and therapeuti­c developmen­t, we sought to make recommenda­tions to help answer questions about how best to distribute a vaccine once the FDA approves one, and we have closely examined the status of the many different therapeuti­cs under developmen­t.

The third pillar is on healthcare supply chain preparedne­ss. Through this pandemic, we’ve learned exactly what happens when we heavily rely on other countries for our drug and medical supply chains. China concealed just how serious the virus is in order to hoard supplies for its population, and more than 20 countries limited or even banned drug and medical supply exports. A secure supply chain with domestic manufactur­ing is the only way to ensure we can adequately deal with this and be prepared for future public health emergencie­s.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I don’t think any of us could have predicted the human suffering this virus would cause at home and around the world. It is my hope we can work together, utilizing these recommenda­tions, to overcome the many challenges caused by this pandemic and come back stronger and more prepared for the future.

 ??  ?? Rep. Greg Walden
SERVED SINCE: 1999, now in his 11th term.
HEALTHCARE-RELATED COMMITTEES: Ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) SERVED SINCE: 1999, now in his 11th term. HEALTHCARE-RELATED COMMITTEES: Ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States