Biden Admin Signs onto Medical Surveillance Program

Last week, the White House signed onto a global health security (GHS) program alongside 50 other countries.

“The most effective way to mitigate the impact of health security threats is to prevent, detect and contain them at their source,” a fact sheet reads. “The Strategy focuses on working with countries around the world to ensure they are better able to prevent, detect, and respond to global health security threats.”

Over the next five years, the United States will work with other countries to “build, further strengthen, and sustain” the GHS program, incorporate “gender-responsive and social inclusion considerations into GHS programming,” and close “gaps in preparedness” for GHS.

These actions will aid in the implementation of the “International Health Regulations (IHR) and contribute towards achieving the G7 Pact for Pandemic Readiness Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) targets,” the fact sheet explains.

The plan, called the 2024 U.S. Global Health Security Strategy, explicitly calls for national surveillance.

The document reads, “Surveillance: Countries establish and maintain functional national surveillance systems with rapid data and information sharing across public health levels; among surveillance systems, laboratory networks, and clinical care facilities. Surveillance is conducted across human, animal, and environmental health sectors, as well as regionally and globally.”

Some of the challenges in implementing the plan include “recent health emergencies” that have “set back efforts to mitigate ongoing health challenges such as HIV and vaccine-preventable childhood diseases; been accompanied by an explosion of mis- and dis- information.”

There are three goals listed for the plan:

  • “Goal 1: Strengthen Global Health Security Capacities through Bilateral Partnerships
  • “Goal 2: Catalyze Political Commitment, Financing, and Leadership to Achieve Health Security
  • “Goal 3: Increase Linkages Between Health Security and Complementary Programs to Maximize Impact”

Four “guiding principles” behind the plan: “cooperation and communication,” “whole-of-government, science based approach,” “country ownership,” and “equity and inclusion.”

The plan also suggests the need to implement military programs as part of health security.

“In line with appropriate authorities and funding mechanisms, including cooperative threat reduction programs and military-military, military-civilian, and multisectoral capacity-building initiatives, we will integrate security and defense components into broader U.S. Government GHS planning and execution,” the plan states.

To “maximize” the plan, the Defense Department will “provide reach back, informational (e.g., medical intelligence, surveillance data) and consultative support to Defense Attaches, Senior Defense Officials, and Defense Threat Reduction Offices, enabling active DOD involvement in interagency health planning processes with the U.S. Embassies’ interagency health teams.”

The plan notes that the health system requires “strengthening.”

Part of the “strengthening” includes global partners better utilizing “other major health and development initiatives” to aid the systems that “underpin GHS, including lab networks, surveillance, human resource training and development, infection prevention and control, clinical research networks, risk communication and community engagement, and emergency response.”

The GHS program also calls for the implementation of “advanced biosurveillance and biodetection capabilities for clinical and environmental early warning and enable large-scale, affordable, and routine biological hazard agnostic and/or specific biosurveillance and biodetection, for animal, human (including clinical and wastewater), plant, and environmental surveillance.”

As part of a “complementary U.S. government global health” program in support of “global health security objectives,” the plan recommends preparedness for a “pandemic influenza.”

This “pandemic influenza” preparedness calls for the government to work with “partner countries to establish, expand, and maintain multi-sectoral influenza surveillance, laboratory capacity, and vaccine formulation and production; helps develop global and local pandemic plans and influenza prevention policies; supports targeted research projects to address critical needs; builds the evidence base for decisions on influenza vaccine program expansion ensuring timely detection and reporting of viruses that have pandemic potential.”

“Global immunization programs” are also recommended.

“Strong immunization programs with national vaccine delivery systems, effective cold chains, and quality control are the cornerstone of GHS, helping to protect populations, including marginalized groups, against emerging disease threats,” the plan says, adding that vaccines are “critical to prevent and respond to epidemic prone diseases.”

The plan lays out several immunization goals.

One goal is to “develop and operationalize a national plan for mass vaccination response to epidemics and other outbreaks of [vaccine-preventable diseases], including guidelines for legal and appropriate regulatory approval or authorization and acquisition of new and investigational vaccines for adults and children.”

The health program plan also declares that a “Pandemic Fund” has been established.

“With strong bipartisan support from Congress, we also championed the creation of the Pandemic Fund, a new international body that has already catalyzed $2 billion in financing from 27 contributors, including countries, foundations, and philanthropies, to build stronger global health security capabilities,” a letter included in the plan states. “We are working to make life-saving medicines and vaccines more rapidly available in health emergencies, including through supporting Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. And we are leading efforts to ensure international financial institutions, such as the World Bank Group, scale up lending for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response because health security, economic security, climate security, and national security are all related.”