Earlier this month, the White House unveiled a new strategy aimed at preparing for future pandemics. The plan costs $65 billion over the next 10 years, and allocates a significant portion of those funds to developing technology that can quickly produce vaccines, antiviral drugs, and diagnostic tests.
It sounds like a promising start, but some experts aren't all that excited about it. "It's underwhelming," Mike Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, told The Atlantic's Ed Yong. "That $65 billion should have been a down payment, not the entire program. It's a rounding error for our federal budget, and yet our entire existence going forward depends on this."
Meanwhile, Alexandra Phelan, an expert on international law and global health policy at Georgetown University, told Yong that it's the way the funds are distributed that's concerning. "We're so focused on these high-tech solutions because they appear to be what a high-income country would do," she said.
Instead, Yong writes, there's a case to be made that turning America's public health sector into a much more robust operation is just as essential as gearing up to produce vaccines. That means giving communities more money to hire and train more workers and improve their workplace infrastructure; it's not enough to simply react to emergencies in the future. Finally, there likely needs to be a greater effort to address the issues that make certain communities more vulnerable to public health crises than others — that could include increased paid sick leave, safe public housing, and food assistance, Yong writes.
For what it's worth, Eric Lander, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Biden's science adviser, agrees that the $65 billion plan isn't enough. "Nobody should read that plan as the limit of what needs to be done," he told Yong. "I have no disagreement that a major effort and very substantial funding are needed." Read more at The Atlantic.