UPTON: “Although Ebola may no longer be on the front pages, the situation remains grave.”
WASHINGTON, DC – The Energy and Commerce Committee continued its oversight of the ongoing Ebola outbreak this week with two hearings. The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), held a hearing to review the U.S. public health response to the Ebola outbreak and the Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), held a hearing to discuss the status of developing effective vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for Ebola. All witnesses and members expressed their strong commitment to protect the public health here in the United States and stop the spread of the virus in West Africa.
Full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said, “This committee remains focused on the Ebola epidemic because it continues to rage on in Africa. And as it does, it continues to present a risk to the health and safety of those living in the United States. Although Ebola may no longer be on the front pages, the situation remains grave.”
Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Murphy added, “As the administration asks taxpayers for $6.2 billion in new spending to fight the outbreak I want to see a plan that is simple and direct.”
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden underscored that, “Stopping Ebola will take time and meticulous work. There are no short cuts.” Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Nicole Lurie added, “The best way to protect America from Ebola is to support the response to the epidemic in West Africa and to get infection and spread under control as quickly as possible.”
Mr. Ken Isaacs, Vice President of Programs and Government Relations for Samaritan’s Purse provided important insight into the humanitarian response in West Africa. Regarding the ongoing debate about travel management plans, Isaacs told subcommittee members, “We must do more than just screen departing passengers for fever. We have to be willing to consider implementing a policy of ‘essential’ travel only that would be coordinated internationally.”
On Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Health discussed the important work of developing treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics that are fundamental in stopping the spread of this virus today and protecting the public health in the future.
Pitts commented, “In light of the nation’s substantial investment in public health emergency preparedness, many are wondering why no proven Ebola medications are currently available and what the federal government is doing to expedite their approval. Specifically, what is FDA doing to accelerate their review of products, how is BARDA assisting companies to prepare for clinical trials, what is the plan for manufacturing, and how and where will these medical products be distributed once they are approved or cleared?”
“Developing the medical products to help bring this Ebola epidemic under control is highly complex and will, unfortunately, take time. Close cooperation and collaboration within FDA, within the U.S. Government, with our international partners, and with product developers are essential to the global response to this epidemic,” Dr. Luciana Borio with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration explained.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases said, “While NIAID is an active participant in the global effort to address the public health emergency occurring in West Africa, it is important to recognize that we are still in the early stages of understanding how infection with the Ebola virus can be treated and prevented.”
Dr. Robin Robinson, Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority at HHS, reported to the committee on recent progress including increased production of ZMapp for clinical trials that will begin in January.
For more details, complete witness testimony, and to watch the full Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing, click here.
For more details, complete witness testimony, and to watch the full Health Subcommittee hearing, click here.