The Biden-Harris administration has released a document describing its plans to bring the United States out of the ‘worst public health crisis in a century’. It is a roadmap for not only ending the pandemic in the US, but to re-establish leadership in the global health care community and provide assistance to other countries. I highly recommend that everyone read it (link to pdf).
The National Strategy is organized around six goals, and they are all very ambitious in their scope. They will require a massive infusion of expertise and an expansion of the public health and scientific workforce. For example, the President will establish a US Public Health Jobs Corps to increase the public health workforce and bolster clinical care capacity for COVID-19. It is a stunning collection of multi-pronged plans which rival efforts to bring the US out of the Great Depression. As President Biden has said, the federal government alone cannot execute this plan: it will require the help of many Americans.
One part of the strategy that I would like to focus on is part of goal 3, which is to “mitigate spread through expanding masking , testing , treatment , data, workforce, and clear public health standards” and in particular, the section entitled “Prioritize therapeutics and establish a comprehensive, integrated COVID-19 treatment discovery and development program”. An excerpt is below:
This includes promoting the immediate and rapid development of therapeutics that respond to COVID-19 by developing new antivirals directed against the coronavirus family, accelerating research and support for clinical trials for therapeutics in response to COVID-19 with a focus on those that can be readily scaled and administered, and developing broad- spectrum antivirals to prevent future viral pandemics.
As I have written before, the COVID-19 pandemic could have been prevented by using broadly-acting anti-coronavirus antiviral drugs. I am very happy that the Biden Administration has received this information and plans to act on it. How this goal will be achieved remains to be seen. Presumably much of this research will be done through NIH funding, but that will require an increase in the budget of that agency. Will such an increase – at least 10 billion dollars a year – be approved by Congress? Such drug discovery will also require collaboration with industry. But industry does not develop drugs for which there is currently no market. How this problem will be overcome remains to be determined.
Successful execution of this strategy will require a strong focus on science and public health, and an expansion of the workforce in these areas. I have the feeling, after reading the Strategic Plan, that the Biden-Harris administration realizes that science is the way out of this pandemic, and that science will help us with future pandemics. This attitude is welcome after four years of anti-science anti-think. How well it will be realized is unsure, given the divided nature of both Congress and this Nation. As a scientist, it is some of the best news that I have seen in years.