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Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I am pleased to come to the floor in support of the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013, PAHPRA. Last week, the Senate passed this bill by unanimous consent and last night the House passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support. I am so pleased PAHPRA is getting sent to the President to be signed into law. Enacting this bill is critical for Marylander's safety, jobs, biotech companies, State and local health departments, and our State's economy. It is also critical that we understand and be responsive to the unique health care needs of children in disasters.

Recent disasters at home and abroad have underscored the importance of preparing our Nation to respond to a range of medical and public health emergencies, whether naturally occurring or the result of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack. Over the past decade, multiple Congresses and administrations have worked together to put in place critical medical and public health preparedness and response programs and policies. As a result of the passage of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, PAHPA of 2006, the Federal Government, in partnership with State and local governments, took significant steps to strengthen our Nation's medical and public health preparedness and response capabilities. This bipartisan reauthorization builds on these efforts by enhancing existing programs and authorities using lessons learned over the past 5 years to maximize our Nation's resilience to threats, whether naturally occurring or deliberate.

I thank Senators Harkin, Enzi, Burr, Alexander, and Casey for their dedication and commitment to reauthorizing the programs in this bill and protecting our country from threats. By coming together, passing this bill, and sending it to the President to get signed into law, we will strengthen our Nation's ability to prepare for and respond to all hazards emergencies, and we will ensure that we have looked out for our children. The congenial and bi-partisan process we followed should be a model for how we do all of our work here in Congress.

PAHPRA includes important provisions that I fought for as Chairwoman of the HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families. I led the effort to create a National Advisory Committee on Children and Disasters to continue the good work started by the National Commission on Children and Disasters. The advisory committee, established by my amendment, will bring together children's advocates and federal agencies to ensure we are well equipped to care for our most vulnerable population when preparing for, responding to and recovering from a disaster. I am committed to getting this advisory committee up and running this year. Doing all that we can to protect our most vulnerable is of the utmost importance.

I would also like to thank the American Academy of Pediatrics for their commitment to children's health and for building a coalition of support for my amendment to establish the Advisory Committee. Save the Children and the Children's Health Fund were also steadfast advocates for this committee and other important pediatric provisions contained in this bill.

This advisory committee will include a variety of pediatric experts, from those who work in Federal agencies, to non-federal health care professionals, to employees of relevant State and local agencies. I made sure that at least four members of this committee would not be federal bureaucrats to ensure that all views and perspectives are considered. Community-based pediatricians, nurses, and State and local public health and emergency management professionals are on the front lines responding to emergencies every day. These folks know what the situation is like on the ground.

The advisory committee will serve an important role in making sure that the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security swiftly implement the medical and public health recommendations put forth by the National Commission on Children and Disasters. Committee members will also advise federal agencies on the medical and public health policies and procedures that the agencies and their grantees should implement to meet the needs of children when preparing for, responding to, and recovering from all-hazards.

As we all know, children are not little adults. Kids who are battered during a disaster and suffer physical harm or are exposed to an infectious disease, need special medications, devices, and supplies, whether it is a liquid form of a medication, a pediatric ventilator, baby formula, or even diapers.

PAHPRA reauthorizes several provisions that I have fought for over the years that support the research and development of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear countermeasures. Project Bioshield and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, BARDA, are economic engines of Maryland's economy supporting both biotech innovation and domestic manufacturing. Project Bioshield is a secure funding source dedicated to the purchase of medical countermeasures. BARDA contracts with companies to support the development and commercialization of medical countermeasures and carries out all Project Bioshield acquisition contracts. Project Bioshield and BARDA together provide drug manufacturers with the incentives they need to enter this market and develop lifesaving therapeutics.

Maryland companies are investing in research and development of medical countermeasures for bioterror threats because they know there is a federal market to buy their drugs, vaccines, needles and masks for the Strategic National Stockpile for use when a disaster strikes. Marylanders are working hard every day to create countermeasures that we hope to never use but will rely on when we are most at need to save our lives and our kids' lives. They are developing the next generation anthrax, influenza, and smallpox vaccines for the Strategic National Stockpile. The drugs we are working so hard to develop also protect our troops deployed around the world so that our soldiers get the right treatments to keep them safe.

PAHPRA also codifies the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise Strategy and Implementation Plan. I worked to ensure that the Department of Health and Human Services would report on what our country needs to protect our kids so that companies will know what countermeasures to develop and HHS and Congress will know how many and which products to buy for the stockpile. I also made sure that FDA would report to Congress annually on the scientific challenges and progress made in developing and licensing countermeasures for pregnant women and children.

I also fought to make sure that State and local health departments would have the workforce and financial resources they need to prepare for infectious disease outbreaks like the H1N1 influenza, earthquakes, and floods, as well as numerous other public health threats that communities face on a day-to-day basis. In that vein, I worked to improve state and local disaster planning for kids. It is important that local education, child care, and other agencies are regularly partnering and consulting with health departments as they develop and revise their preparedness plans. PAHPRA supports the good work that happened in our communities during H1N1. State education, child care and health agencies were partnering and consulting with each other day in and day out for almost a year to minimize the ill health effects of this novel virus. Our public servants at the federal level were critical to the response and they worked closely with local officials to protect us every hour of every day during the pandemic.

We must prevent and respond to health threats before they are on our doorstep. Making this bipartisan legislation the law of the land will help do just that. And I will fight to make sure we are funding these programs so that we can be prepared for any and all emergencies that we may face here in the United States.


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