(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Appropriations Health subcommittee met Wednesday to discuss the country’s defense against public health threats. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the country needs more defense in the form of better technology, regulatory measures, and domestic manufacturing capacity, the latter to manufacture vaccines instead of outsourcing to foreign countries.
Wednesday’s hearing also examined the Department of Health and Human Services’ funding plans to improve how it develops medicine for use against public health threats. Randall Larsen, a retired colonel and chief executive officer of the non-profit Weapons of Mass Destruction Center, said many senior leaders do not understand the gravity of bioterrorism. “The serious threats that we’ll face in the next decades are not going to come from missiles, tanks or bullets, in my opinion,” he said. “They’re going to come from infectious disease.”
CEO Eric Rose of Siga Technologies, which develops countermeasure medicines, said the government needs to restore funding to a reserve fund for countermeasure medicines to guarantee private companies that a market will exist for their product when it is finished. Otherwise, private companies will be reluctant to invest the hundreds of millions of dollars and 10 to 15 years required to develop countermeasure medicines.
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