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Senate Approves U.S. Biodefense Legislation

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved legislation intended to further strengthen the nation's readiness for an act of biological terrorism or a major natural disease outbreak (see GSN, Dec. 15, 2011).

The Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act Reauthorization Act of 2011 would renew measures from similar 2006 legislation aimed at promoting the development and procurement of medical countermeasures against biological and other WMD agents.

It calls for reauthorizing the Project Bioshield Special Reserve Fund, which was established in 2004 with $5.6 billion for purchasing key vaccines and other treatments over a 10-year period. While the effectiveness of the Bioshield proram has been questioned, the fund would receive an additional $2.8 billion from fiscal 2014 to 2018 under the new legislation (see GSN, Feb. 16). The Health and Human Services secretary would also be required to notify Congress if the reserve coffers drop below $1.5 billion.

Other programs renewed under the legislation include the Public Health Emergency Preparedness and the Hospital Preparedness Cooperative Agreement initiatives.

Among a host of additional measures is a mandate that Health and Human Services "develop and follow through on plans to modernize national situational awareness and biosurveillance capabilities," according to a briefing document from lead bill sponsor Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

“The American people must be protected if an attack occurs, and I am proud that the Senate has taken the critical step of strengthening our ability to respond to medical and public health emergencies by reauthorizing the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act,” Burr said in a Thursday press release.  “I am hopeful that we will send this important legislation to reauthorize PAHPA to the president quickly so that he may sign it into law."

The House of Representatives approved similar legislation in late 2011 (U.S. Senator Richard Burr release, March 8).


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