June 20, 2024

White House releases strategy to strengthen health security and prepare for biothreats

President Joe Biden receives his second COVID-19 booster shot, Wednesday, March, 30, 2022, in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Katie Ricks)

The White House on Tuesday released the U.S. National Biodefense Strategy and Implementation Plan for Countering Biological Threats, Enhancing Pandemic Preparedness, and Achieving Global Health Security (Strategy).

The strategy outlines the Biden administration’s vision and actions towards a world free from catastrophic biological threats. Officials say it is intended “to chart a new course for sustainable political will, investments, innovation, and capacity to more effectively assess, prevent, detect, prepare for, respond to, and recover from biological threats, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate.”

The strategy builds on lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent biological incidents and health emergencies, updates and replaces the 2018 National Biodefense Strategy, and complements other policies focused on preventing, detecting, and responding to biological threats such as Executive Order 13987, National Security Memorandum-1, and Executive Order 13747.  

WHITE HOUSE FACT SHEET: Today President Joe Biden will sign National Security Memorandum-15 (NSM-15) and launched the National Biodefense Strategy and Implementation Plan for Countering Biological Threats, Enhancing Pandemic Preparedness, and Achieving Global Health Security (the Strategy).

As the President has said, there are no walls high enough or oceans wide enough to keep out biothreats and protect our communities. The Strategy reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s comprehensive plan to protect our nation from future pandemics and biological threats.  It outlines a set of bold goals to transform the nation’s biodefenses and health security by launching a whole-of-government effort across 20 Federal Agencies to detect, prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from biological incidents, in partnership with our international, state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners. NSM-15 supports execution of the strategy by strengthening the coordination of biodefense efforts across government.

Infectious diseases that cross borders and disrupt societies are a threat to our national security and global stability.  COVID-19 is the latest example of how biological threats can devastate communities across America and around the world, resulting in millions of deaths and trillions of dollars of economic losses globally. In addition to COVID-19, the global community is concurrently fighting outbreaks of monkeypox, polio, Ebola, highly pathogenic avian influenza, and other diseases, stretching thin global resources and demonstrating gaps in our current preparedness.  And, the risks of weaponization of biological agents are expanding. 

The United States must be prepared for outbreaks from any source – whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate in origin. Urbanization, climate change, and habitat encroachment increase the risk of an outbreak emerging from animal reservoirs. Global interconnectedness accelerates the speed at which infectious diseases spread across the world, especially when coupled with overwhelmed health systems. Furthermore, the norm against the development and use of biological weapons has been challenged by state and non-state actors over the past several decades.

The Administration is already implementing key actions in the Strategy with existing funding. However, fully achieving these transformative objectives will require the support of Congress to provide additional resources, including the President’s $88 billion request over five years for pandemic preparedness and biodefense. The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to implement this investment strategy to save trillions of dollars and millions of lives. 

The Strategy sets out to: 
Detect pandemics and other biological threats:  The Strategy aims to transform early warning of infectious disease threats by accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies that can rapidly detect novel pathogens. It will improve real-time information for decision-making by planning for an enduring all-hazards hospital data collection system, expanding platforms to integrate and share data for response, and improving data sharing internationally. These efforts build on the recently launched Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics, which creates the equivalent of a “national weather service” for infectious disease outbreaks, enabling rapid, effective decision-making to improve outbreak response using data, modeling, and analytics.

Prevent outbreaks from becoming epidemics and prevent biological incidents before they happen by:

  • Stopping outbreaks at their source through strengthening global health security:  The United States will support at least 50 countries to better prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats, while encouraging other donors and partners to support an additional 50 countries.  The United States will also invest in critical multilateral institutions that further strengthen the global health architecture.  The Administration has already accelerated this effort by leading the charge to establish a groundbreaking new Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response at the World Bank. With the United States and more than 20 countries contributing over $1.4 billion in seed funding at its outset, this new fund will help fill major preparedness gaps at the national, regional, and global level. The Strategy also builds on USAID’s announcement earlier this year committing $150 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to accelerate the development of life-saving vaccines and countermeasures against biological threats. The United States will continue to support and strengthen the World Health Organization, which plays an essential role in strengthening health systems around the world to better prepare for and respond to health emergencies.
  • Strengthening laboratory biosafety and biosecurity: The United States will work with domestic and international partners to prevent laboratory accidents by strengthening biosafety laboratory capacity, reinforcing norms of responsible conduct for biological research, and accelerating biosafety and biosecurity innovation in the United States and abroad. These efforts include galvanizing support for multilateral biosafety and biosecurity commitments, and establishing international mechanisms to enhance biosafety and biosecurity globally.
  • Deterring use and development of bioweapons: The United States will also invest in pathbreaking technologies to detect and attribute biological weapons use, and work with foreign partners to prevent use and respond decisively if biological weapons are deployed. The United States will work to strengthen international norms against traditional and novel biological weapons, including through efforts under the Biological Weapons Convention to foster greater transparency among all nation-states.

Prepare for pandemics and other biological incidents: The Strategy aims to transform our preparedness to respond to outbreaks, building on the American Pandemic Preparedness PlanTransforming Our Capabilitiesreleased by the Administration in 2021. The United States will work to strengthen and modernize domestic public, veterinary, and plant health capacity at every level, from rural jurisdictions to large cities, so that outbreaks in humans, animals, and plants can be identified and controlled quickly and equitably. This effort includes recruiting, training, and sustaining a robust, flexible, permanent cadre of essential critical health infrastructure workers, outbreak emergency responders, public health laboratory scientists, technicians, data quality managers, and animal disease epidemiologists in our territories and all 50 states. This Strategy will also enhance the coordination of evidence-based public health information campaigns across Federal, state and local governments, with the goal of reaching 80% of the American population.

The Strategy also aims to realize new ambitious timelines in the development of novel countermeasures following the determination of a nationally or internationally significant biological incident (including a high consequence outbreak or potential pandemic). These targets reinforce key elements of the 100 Days Mission, which was welcomed by President Biden and G7 leaders last year and is catalyzing international cooperation in support of urgent global biodefense goals. Over the next 5-10 years, it aims to:

  • Enable testing within 12 hours, surge tens of thousands of diagnostic tests within one week, and develop rapid diagnostics within 90 days;
  • Develop vaccines within 100 days; manufacture enough vaccine for the population of the United States within 130 days; and work with international partners to develop sufficient vaccine supply for high-risk global populations within 200 days; and,
  • Accelerate therapeutic development and validation to repurpose existing drugs within 90 days or develop novel therapeutics within 180 days.

Rapidly respond to outbreaks when they occur: To leverage these capabilities effectively, the Strategy strengthens the United States’ readiness to launch a coordinated, comprehensive, equitable response to any significant biological incident within days.  This effort includes preparing to activate an integrated Federal research agenda within 14 days of the determination of a domestically or internationally significant biological incident, and a clinical trials infrastructure within 14 days of identifying a viable countermeasure to rapidly evaluate vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics during a response.

Recover from a pandemic or biological incident: Finally, the Strategy ensures that the Federal government will be prepared to coordinate a long-term, equitable recovery strategy for any significant biological incident, in close partnership with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments and communities.

To support execution of the Strategy, the promulgation of the National Security Memorandum-15 (NSM-15) on Countering Biological Threats, Enhancing Pandemic Preparedness, and Achieving Global Health Security strengthens the coordination of biodefense efforts across the Federal government by:

  • Centralizing oversight of policy coordination at the White House to ensure accountability for implementing the Strategy and in so doing to bring together the strengths of all Federal agencies.
  • Directing departments and agencies to prioritize biodefense and implementation of the Strategy in their annual budgets.
  • Directing the Intelligence Community to closely monitor the evolving biothreat threat landscape and provide critical and potentially time-sensitive information needed to address naturally occurring, accidental, and deliberate biothreats.
  • Ensuring the Federal government continuously adapts to the evolving threat landscape by exercising annual biodefense emergency response plans, reviewing ongoing responses, and adjusting Federal priorities on a regular basis to account for lessons learned.

Collectively, these efforts will help protect the American people against disease outbreaks, pandemics, and biological weapons use, and they will enable us to equitably strengthen the health of our homeland.

FACT SHEET on USAID Contributions To The Updated U.S. National Biodefense Strategy

Today, the White House released the U.S. National Biodefense Strategy and Implementation Plan for Countering Biological Threats, Enhancing Pandemic Preparedness, and Achieving Global Health Security (Strategy). The Strategy outlines the Administration’s bold vision and actions towards a world free from catastrophic biological threats. The Strategy is intended to chart a new course for sustainable political will, investments, innovation, and capacity to more effectively assess, prevent, detect, prepare for, respond to, and recover from biological threats, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate. The Strategy builds on lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and other recent biological incidents and health emergencies, updates and replaces the 2018 National Biodefense Strategy, and complements other policies focused on preventing, detecting, and responding to biological threats such as Executive Order 13987, National Security Memorandum-1, and Executive Order 13747.  

USAID’s work in support of the Strategy is built on 60 years of strengthening health and economic systems, decades of experience with international outbreak and disaster response, and more than 15 years working with countries around the world to develop the global, regional, and country-level health security capabilities needed to reduce biological threats and prevent and prepare for future pandemics.

USAID’s biodefense efforts will contribute to each of the five goals of the Strategy with a focus on four critical areas: (1) strengthen global health security and biodefense capacities in partner countries; (2) increase international support for global health security and biodefense; (3) catalyze international, vaccine development and deployment; and (4) support response to and recovery from international outbreaks.

KEY ACTIONS

Strengthen Global Health Security and Biodefense Capacities in Partner Countries

USAID plays a critical role in strengthening global health security (GHS) and biodefense capabilities in collaboration with other U.S. government departments and agencies, donors and multilateral organizations. Our efforts build on our long-standing work and relationships with partner country governments and progress made improving health and economic systems; and leverage our role as catalytic driver of inclusive development bringing diverse expertise, communities and sectors together for resilient, sustainable change.

  • National Biodefense Strategy Target: “Provide direct support to at least 50 countries … to achieve ‘Demonstrated Capacity’ or comparable level (depending on country context) in at least five technical areas critical to the country, by 2025, as measured by relevant health security assessments, such as those conducted within the World Health Organization (WHO) IHR Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, such as the JEE, SPAR, and/or other relevant health security assessments.”

USAID is one of the leading U.S. government agencies that promote the development, enhancement, and maintenance of effective, sustainable local, national, and global health security capacities. Leveraging this expertise, USAID will contribute to the whole-of-government effort to help meet the Strategy target.  

With bipartisan support from Congress, USAID is significantly expanding its investments in global health security to reach more than 50 countries. The agency will work with national authorities and other stakeholders to address their highest priority gaps that countries need to fill in order to prevent and be prepared for pandemics and other health emergencies focusing on 10 priority technical areas described in the WHO Monitoring and Evaluation Framework. USAID will also coordinate with and catalyze investments by other donors, national governments, and development banks to optimize and amplify investments towards demonstrable improvements in health security capacity. Key areas of collaboration include:

  • Preparing the next generation of health, agricultural, and environmental professionals to address emerging infectious diseases with a multisectoral, ‘One Health’ approach that recognizes the interconnection between the health of people, animals, plants, and the environment
  • Strengthening veterinary and public health surveillance and laboratory capacity, including quality assurance, sample collection, transport services, and strengthening biosafety and biosecurity
  • Establishing risk communication programs that enable individuals and communities to make informed decisions to mitigate the effects of infectious disease threats including by taking protective and preventive measures
  • Strengthening GHS-focused antimicrobial resistance (AMR) programs in both the public health and animal health sectors, to promote the rational use of antimicrobial drugs in both healthcare and livestock production settings
  • Strengthening infection prevention and control in health facilities, and sanitary animal production practice on farms, in animal markets, and along animal value chains to prevent the transmission of emerging, re-emerging, and endemic infectious diseases and reduce the emergence and spread of AMR
  • National Biodefense Strategy Target: “Demonstrate the sustained domestic and international capacity of surveillance and monitoring systems, including syndromic, pathogen, and events-based systems, needed to detect and regularly report known and new infectious diseases threats in humans, plants, and animals.”

As part of USAID’s efforts to assist more than 50 countries to achieve demonstrated global health security capacities, the agency will assist at least 30 partner countries to strengthen national, regional, and international surveillance and monitoring systems, with a particular emphasis on detecting emerging infectious disease threats and AMR.

  • National Biodefense Strategy Target: “Support partner countries to develop, implement, and scale-up evidence-informed interventions at the community level to reduce zoonotic pathogen spillover informed by risk assessment and other critical information, engagement of traditional and non-traditional partners, targeted research to prioritize, implement, and validate interventions.”

As part of USAID’s efforts to assist more than 50 countries to achieve demonstrated global health security capacities, the agency will partner with countries to better understand and address the drivers of pathogen spillover from animals to humans at high risk locations with increasing contact between people, wildlife, and livestock. USAID will work to improve hygiene and sanitary practices on farms and at live poultry markets, address risks along animal value chains, and reduce risky contact between people and animals.

Increase International Support for Health Security and Biodefense

To achieve enduring advances in global health security, it also is imperative that we catalyze more sustainable financial and political support from countries and organizations around the world to help low and lower middle income countries become more comprehensively and measurably prepared. USAID works to garner the necessary political will to end the cycle of crisis and complacency related to international health security and pandemic preparedness. USAID is working with partners to replace this cycle with continuous financial and political support to more effectively assess, prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from biological threats. This will enable the protection of lives and economies from pandemics and other biological threats. 

  • National Biodefense Strategy Target: “Support and help lead the establishment of a reliably financed international mechanism to catalyze and provide sustainable financing for global health security, pandemic preparedness, and response capabilities.”

The United States has led the charge to establish a groundbreaking new Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response at the World Bank. With more than $1.4 billion in seed funding at its outset, this new Pandemic Fund will begin to fill major preparedness gaps at the national, regional, and global level, recognizing that much more will be needed. USAID, jointly with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Department of State, and Department of Health and Human Services, will closely coordinate with the World Bank implementing entities and recipient countries to amplify and leverage the new Pandemic Fund investments in pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. These efforts will strengthen health security capacities in partner countries as reflected, in part, by improved scores on various World Health Organization (WHO) health security monitoring instruments.  

Catalyze International Vaccine Development and Deployment

  • National Biodefense Strategy Target: “Rapidly make and equitably deploy safe and effective vaccines against any pathogen family, at timescales and quantities necessary to contain and control a potential nationally or internationally significant biological incident.”

USAID will continue to provide support to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) for vaccine research, development, and delivery. These investments will help accelerate the development of vaccines against high consequence zoonotic viruses and emerging infectious diseases, enable equitable access to these vaccines during outbreaks, and build resilience for future epidemics and pandemics.

Support Responses to and Recovery from International Outbreaks

USAID serves as the U.S. government’s lead federal coordinator for international disaster assistance and plays a leading role in the U.S. government response to and recovery from outbreaks, pandemics, and other global health emergencies.

  • National Biodefense Strategy: “The United States will respond rapidly to limit the impacts of bio incidents …[and] take actions to restore critical infrastructure services and capability; coordinate recovery activities; provide recovery support and long-term mitigation; and minimize cascading effects elsewhere in the world.”

USAID will play a major role in the Strategy’s plans to strengthen U.S. capacity to respond to and recover from outbreaks, pandemics, and other global health emergencies. To that end, we are enhancing our infectious disease outbreak response team to better support partner countries when they experience health crises, and better respond to concurrent events like COVID-19, Ebola, and monkeypox. Consistent with our broad-based development mandate, USAID’s contributions to outbreak response and recovery will be multi-sectoral, community-based and focused on building the capacities of partner governments to lead these efforts.

USAID will build upon its work in more than 120 countries to end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic by continuing efforts to vaccinate the world, save lives now, including the expansion of medical oxygen and ‘test and treat’ strategies, and recover from COVID-19’s wide-ranging secondary impacts. 

Recognizing the need to provide immediate relief while also setting the stage for recovery and rehabilitation, USAID will continue to support programs that help communities transition from the response to the recovery phase of an infectious disease outbreak. A critical component of this is linking response work to development work in affected countries and related support to USG continuity of operations activities. In addition, USAID will work to ensure that our collective outbreak response investments contribute to enhancing improvements in the capacity, resilience, responsiveness, and performance of health systems.

The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) as part of its new Strategy, End Malaria Faster, will work with partner countries to adapt programs to changing conditions such as the timing of insecticide spraying campaigns in response to shifting rainfall patterns.

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