The $30 billion in pandemic preparedness proposed in President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending package could be slashed to just $5 billion, according to a source who spoke with the Hill, a move public health experts say would be disastrous.
"It’s so stunning because if there was ever a teachable moment that we need to invest in public health, it is now," Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the Obama administration, told the news outlet. "We will not have another moment like this in our lifetimes."
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 612,500 people in the United States and infected more than 34.8 million. The virus rages on 18 months after the U.S. declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak, with some states reinforcing social restrictions as a new, more contagious variant has emerged.
Biden’s American Jobs Plan proposal included a $30 billion investment to protect Americans from future pandemics, with the White House arguing that: "Outbreaks of SARS, Ebola, influenza, Zika and others have cost billions in lost productivity. The risk of catastrophic biological threats is increasing due to our interconnected world, heightened risk of spillover from animals to humans, ease of making and modifying pandemic agents, and an eroding norm against the development and use of biological weapons."
The financial costs of the pandemic is estimated at more than $16 trillion, according to JAMA Network, including $7.5 billion in lost GDP.
"Thirty billion to protect Americans from future pandemics pales in comparison to the cost of responding to another pandemic," Frieden wrote in an opinion for The Hill last week.
"The cost of COVID-19 in the United States alone may top an unthinkable $16 trillion before we’re finally able to get it under control; we can’t afford to shortchange the critical public health infrastructure our nation needs to be prepared for the next pandemic or other public health crisis."
Andy Weber, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, in April proposed a "10+10 Over 10" plan to end the threat of pandemics in the U.S.: $10 billion to the DOD for biological threat preparedness and $10 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent biological threats in the future, over 10 years.
"We have to do everything we can to make sure that this is the last pandemic we have to deal with," Weber argued.
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