Medical countermeasure development faces significant barriers yet remains critical to U.S. response to health security crises.

Photo Credit: Safin Hamed/Stringer

Quick Overview

Medical countermeasures, which include vaccines, therapies, and diagnostics, are critical for U.S. response to health crises. Since the anthrax attacks in 2001, the U.S. government has sought to develop and improve its capacity to detect and respond to biomedical crises, both naturally occurring and deliberately induced, and to develop and stockpile countermeasures. Additionally, there has been an effort to develop fundamental base platform technologies upon which a range of medical countermeasures can be developed, reducing time and cost requirements. U.S. government initiatives have resulted in new legal authorities, funding, and strategic planning to respond to an attack, an accident, or a pandemic outbreak.

Development and stockpiling of medical countermeasures face chronic, systematic barriers. Today, the U.S. government operates without a consistent and predictable strategy of investment and sustainment. Institutional fragmentation over roles and responsibilities for countermeasures within the federal government complicates responsibility and accountability. Government unreliability disincentivizes private sector investment and engagement. Yet there have been encouraging new international efforts launched over the last ten years to stimulate countermeasure development and encourage coordination. These initiatives warrant strong U.S. support.

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