Congressman says leaders must learn from previous outbreaks & prepare for next one
Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, is calling for a $5 billion investment over the next five years supporting research led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) into the treatment and prevention of coronavirus disease.
In his letter to House leadership, Higgins pointed out COVID-19 is the third coronavirus outbreak in the past two decades, and there will likely be more to come: “Seventeen years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared that a strain of coronavirus was the cause of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The virus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is also a type of coronavirus. The novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 is the third coronavirus-related outbreak in a span of two decades, and health experts warn of similar outbreaks in the foreseeable future.”
Higgins is pushing for the U.S. to do more to prepare for future pandemics, recently penning an editorial piece on the issue and announcing plans to introduce the U.S. Infectious Disease Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Act, legislation creating an independent agency charged with preparing for, monitoring, and responding to pandemics, and providing significantly increased federal funding for research into treatments and vaccines against infectious diseases.
In recent testimony to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said that, beyond the need for coronavirus research, the outbreak will cost the NIH $10 billion in lost research across all areas of study. He said, “If you add up what this is going to cost just in terms of the lost productivity, the need to keep people employed, the estimates are something like $10 billion of NIH-funded research is going to disappear because of the way in which this virus has affected everybody.”
Higgins noted the investment in medical research today would save lives and economic losses in the future.
“The federal government is long overdue investing in developing a vaccine to protect against coronaviruses,” he said. “That’s why I urge you to include at least $5 billion over the next five years for the National Institutes of Health, the largest medical research funder in the world, to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 and similar viruses as part of the next COVID-19 Congressional relief package. New funding for COVID-19 disaster relief should include this investment as a down payment for a healthier and safer America and world. Had we begun making this investment two decades ago, we could have saved trillions of dollars, tens of thousands of lives, and spared the good people of this nation from having to endure so much death and destruction.”