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Omicron Variant Prompts Federal Government to Accelerate Pandemic Response Initiatives

As the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the newly identified more contagious Omicron variant is posing new challenges for the U.S. health care system and the nation’s pandemic preparedness and response capabilities. Now, the federal government aims to leverage commercial partnerships, more robust funding, adapted legislation and all-of-nation participation to protect American citizens and move closer to the end of a global pandemic.

President Biden’s American Pandemic Preparedness: Transforming Our Capabilities document, released in September 2021, outlines needs and opportunities through five key pillars for protecting the U.S. against COVID-19 and possible future biological threats.

The White House said the plan aims to “catalyze the advances in science, technology, and core capabilities required to protect the Nation against future and potentially catastrophic biological threats, whether naturally-occurring, accidental, or deliberate.”

The initiative plans to invest $65.3 billion in vaccine development and manufacturing, diagnostic testing, health system capability expansion, personal protective equipment and other critical focus areas over the next seven to ten years.

In November 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services tapped LMI to speed up the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics in support of the countermeasures acceleration group within the office of the assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

Christen Smith, vice president of LMI’s health and civilian market, said the opportunity will “help the federal government ensure the resilience of the medical supply chain for COVID-19 and future pandemics.”

While significant progress had been made regarding pandemic response efforts near the end of 2021, the Omicron variant’s detection in the U.S. on Dec. 1 influenced federal agencies to ramp up their resilience efforts and get ahead of the new strain’s potential impacts.

The Biden Administration recently purchased one billion at-home COVID-19 test kits and plans to distribute them to citizens via the United States Postal Service free of charge. The White House will also provide free masks to Americans as part of its plan to bolster the country’s pandemic response.

On Friday, the Army Contracting Command obligated almost $2 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan to procure rapid COVID-19 antigen tests from three domestic suppliers in support of the newly announced free test kit initiative.

The White House also updated its Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance, which directs federal agencies to establish COVID-19 testing programs for unvaccinated federal personnel and onsite contractors by Feb. 15.

Additionally, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy recently established a new Pandemic Innovation Task Force which will work to develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests, among other pandemic resilience and response measures, Bloomberg reported Friday.

LMI’s Christen Smith will join distinguished leaders from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration in a panel discussion on the country’s biodefense strategies, plans and priorities during the Potomac Officers Club’s final Data-Driven 2021 Series event, Fostering Resilient, All-of-Nation Pandemic Response on Jan. 25.

Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, surgeon general for the U.S. Navy and chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, will serve as keynote speaker for the event and share his military and medical insights on the current state of U.S. pandemic resilience efforts.

Visit PotomacOfficersClub.com to register for the Fostering Resilient, All-of-Nation Pandemic Response event on Jan. 25 and learn more about the platform’s upcoming webinars.

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