February 2, 2023

One of many warehouses the place shares of medicines and medical provides are saved.

Workplace of Strategic Preparedness and Response, US Division of Well being and Human Companies

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Workplace of Strategic Preparedness and Response, US Division of Well being and Human Companies

One of many warehouses the place shares of medicines and medical provides are saved.

Workplace of Strategic Preparedness and Response, US Division of Well being and Human Companies

Spikes in circumstances of COVID-19, flu and different respiratory sicknesses are forcing the US authorities to do what it normally reserves for emergencies: distribute stockpiles of Tamiflu to states in dire want of extra flu medicine.

The transfer by the Division of Well being and Human Companies on Wednesday was by the Strategic Nationwide Stockpile (SNS), which permits the federal government to make use of its stockpile of medicines and different medical provides when there’s a huge outbreak or different well being disaster.

It is proper. There’s a chain of warehouses, every the dimensions of a number of Walmarts, situated in top-secret places throughout the nation. And whereas a lot about stockpiles stays a secret, they proceed to play a significant function within the COVID pandemic.

This is what we all know concerning the multi-billion greenback stockpile of vaccines, gear and different life-saving medical provides.

What reserves does SNS retailer?

Briefly, virtually any treatment that may turn out to be useful throughout an enormous epidemic or well being disaster.

The Workplace of Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR), a division of HHS, particulars among the lists on its web site:

There are 1,960 containers of nerve agent antivenoms, referred to as chemical packs, in case of a chemical incident at greater than 1,340 places resembling hearth stations and hospitals throughout the US. Over 90% of People stay inside an hour of certainly one of these locations, in response to ASPR.

If a pure catastrophe or different disaster impacts the variety of hospitals or the quantity of medical gear out there, SNS can deploy “shortly deployable caches” that include a mattress and different medical provides. Every of those federal medical stations can accommodate between 50 and 250 sufferers and is stocked with sufficient medication for 3 days.

SNS additionally says it has “tens of millions of masks, gloves, robes, N95 respirators, face shields and different important provides” and 16 totally different fashions of ventilators prepared for these with COVID.

What is the level of maintaining so many medicine?

The SNS ought to be there in case we’d like it. With so many medicine in its reserves, the nation should assist when native businesses dry up or when large quantities of medicine are wanted at any second.

The SNS “serves as a nationwide repository of medicines and provides to be used within the occasion of a public well being emergency resembling a terrorist assault, an influenza outbreak, or a pure catastrophe extreme sufficient to deplete native provides,” in response to the Facilities. for illness management and prevention.

When did the US authorities begin doing this?

Congress approved the creation of the SNS, then referred to as the Nationwide Pharmaceutical Stockpile, in 1999, in response to the CDC.

Initially, the federal authorities created the SNS to cope with chemical or organic assaults. It has since been used to deal with outbreaks resembling Ebola and monkeypox (now known as monkeypox), however officers started to take a look at its use when the pandemic led to extreme shortages of vital medical provides.

However regardless of its creation, finances cuts, world provide chain points, and manufacturing points made SNS unsuitable for coping with the pandemic, in response to an NPR investigation. The investigation discovered that even 9 months after the beginning of the pandemic, SNS nonetheless didn’t have the mandatory medical provides.

Extra lately, an October 2022 U.S. Authorities Accountability Workplace report discovered that SNS had failed to supply the nation with sufficient assets to struggle the pandemic.

“The response to COVID-19 has additionally prompted HHS to evaluation SNS operations, together with the function, tasks, expertise and stock required to maneuver ahead,” the GAO report stated.

What will we find out about these warehouses?

Think about an enormous warehouse full of cabinets and cabinets of medical provides so far as the attention can see.

The situation of the warehouses is stored secret. However over time, officers have shared some details about their dimension and stock.

In 2016, NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboys noticed one of many large warehouses. Greg Burel, director of SNS on the time, instructed her that the price of stock was about $7 billion, a big enhance from the $50 million finances allotted in 1999.

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