U.S. Division of Well being and Human Providers Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Responses
Surges in COVID-19, the flu and different respiratory diseases are forcing the U.S. authorities to do one thing it usually reserves for emergencies: launch hoards of stockpiled Tamiflu to states in dire want of extra flu medication.
The transfer from the Division of Well being and Human Providers on Wednesday got here through the Strategic Nationwide Stockpile (SNS), which permits the federal government to faucet its reserves of drugs and different medical provides when a mass outbreak or different well being disaster happens.
It is true. There’s a community of warehouses, every the dimensions of a number of Walmart Supercenters, positioned in top-secret areas throughout the nation. And whereas a lot concerning the stockpile stays a secret, it continues to play a significant function within the COVID pandemic.
Here is what we all know concerning the multibillion-dollar stock of vaccines, tools and different medical provides designed to assist save lives.
What sort of provides does the SNS stockpile?
Briefly, just about any medical provides that may very well be helpful throughout a mass outbreak or well being disaster.
The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), a division of HHS, particulars a number of the stock on its web site:
There are 1,960 containers of nerve agent antidotes, often called chempacks, in case of a chemical incident, in additional than 1,340 areas, reminiscent of hearth stations and hospitals, throughout the U.S. Greater than 90% of Individuals reside inside an hour of one in all these areas, based on ASPR.
If a pure catastrophe or one other disaster impacts the variety of hospitals or quantities of medical tools accessible, the SNS can deploy “quickly deployable caches” that include a mattress and different medical provides. Every of those federal medical stations can home 50 to 250 sufferers and comes with sufficient pharmaceutical provides to final for 3 days.
The SNS additionally says it has “thousands and thousands of masks, gloves, robes, N95 respirators, face shields and different vital provides” and 16 totally different fashions of ventilators on the prepared for these with COVID.
What’s the level of stockpiling a lot medication?
The SNS is meant to be there in case we want it. By having so many medical provides in its reserves, the nation is meant to assist when native companies run out, or when large quantities of medical provides are wanted at a second’s discover.
The SNS “serves because the nation’s repository of medicines and provides to be used if there’s a public well being emergency, reminiscent of a terrorist assault, flu outbreak, or pure catastrophe, extreme sufficient to trigger native provides to expire,” based on the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.
When did the U.S. authorities begin doing this?
Congress licensed the creation of the SNS, then often called the Nationwide Pharmaceutical Stockpile, in 1999, the CDC says.
The federal authorities initially created the SNS to fight chemical or organic assaults. It has since been used to assist with outbreaks, such because the Ebola virus and monkeypox (now known as mpox), however officers started to pay attention to its use when the pandemic led to drastic shortages of essential medical provides.
However regardless of its creation, price range cuts, points with the worldwide provide chain and manufacturing issues made the SNS ill-equipped to cope with the pandemic, based on an NPR investigation. Even 9 months into the pandemic, the investigation discovered, the SNS nonetheless lacked essential medical provides.
Most lately, an October 2022 report from the U.S. Authorities Accountability Workplace discovered that the SNS failed to provide the nation with sufficient assets to battle the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 response has additionally been a catalyst for HHS to re-examine SNS operations, together with the function, obligations, experience, and stock wanted transferring ahead,” the GAO report mentioned.
What will we find out about these warehouses?
Think about an enormous warehouse crammed with cabinets and cabinets of medical provides so far as the attention can see.
The areas of the warehouses are a secret. However through the years, officers have shared some details about their measurement — and stock.
In 2016, NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce was given a have a look at one of many large warehouses. Greg Burel, then the SNS director, advised her that the stockpile stock was value about $7 billion — a large improve from the allotted price range of $50 million again in 1999.