Dec 08 2021
Washington—More than 100 experts involved in COVID-19 research today called on congressional leaders to pass the bipartisan National Commission on the COVID-19 Pandemic Act (S. 3203), a bill introduced last month by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and cosponsored by Senators Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
The National Commission on the COVID-19 Pandemic would conduct an investigation on the COVID-19 outbreak and identify lessons learned regarding preparedness, response and recovery. The structure and authorities of the commission are modeled on the 9/11 Commission. More information on the bill is available here.
“The most recent estimate published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences indicates that the likelihood of another global pandemic during our children’s lifetime is high. Information gleaned from a National Commission on the COVID-19 Pandemic is urgently needed to strengthen public health systems in the US and abroad to minimize the impact of the next pandemic,” the scientists wrote in a letter to Senate and House leaders.
Senator Dianne Feinstein released the following statement in response to the letter: “I’m grateful to have the support of top experts from around the world for our bipartisan efforts to set up a 9/11-style COVID-19 commission. It will help us understand and learn from this pandemic so we can better prepare for the next one. It’s my hope that Congress can work together now to move this bill forward without delay.”
Full text of the letter is available below. The letter is also available here with the full list of the signers.
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leaders Schumer, McConnell and McCarthy:
We, the undersigned Global Science Community, write to urge Congress to pass the National Commission on the COVID-19 Pandemic Act (S.3203). As scientists involved in multiple areas of COVID-19 research, including disease transmission, global environmental science, biomedical engineering, clinical science, vaccine development, and more, we assert that this legislation will ensure the US is prepared to confront future pandemics. The most recent estimate published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences indicates that the likelihood of another global pandemic during our children’s lifetime is high. Information gleaned from a National Commission on the COVID-19 Pandemic is urgently needed to strengthen public health systems in the US and abroad to minimize the impact of the next pandemic.
No place on Earth is untouched by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. In the US alone, almost 1 million of our family members, friends, and neighbors have died from COVID-19. There is fundamental information yet to be evaluated regarding US government response, communication, supply chain coordination, vaccine and drug development and distribution, preparedness, and origins of SARS-CoV-2. We support a systems- based (or holistic) approach to evaluating inefficiencies in response or deficiencies in knowledge that have resulted in sustained global endemicity and hundreds of millions of infected people worldwide.
While appropriate measures deployed within our national borders can reduce the impacts of the virus, the US cannot protect itself by acting unilaterally. A National Commission on the COVID-19 Pandemic is necessary to identify what international surveillance mechanisms or early warning signals are needed to ensure timely management of similar events. A Commission will also identify ways the US can assume a leadership role with the widest possible international participation.
Unprecedented in any previous global epidemic, COVID-19 emerged in a highly connected global society, where information (and misinformation alike) spreads rapidly. In this environment, COVID-19 research results and opinions were often made public and newsworthy prior to rigorous peer review. Public consumers of this unvetted research often misdiagnosed the level of uncertainty such as the variance of an intervention or treatment effect. This partly contributed to the rapid expansion of mistrust between government health authorities and the general public. If this mistrust persists, the next pandemic will likely result in even more deaths, violence and discord, not just within the US borders, but likely worldwide and could become a major issue for US national security.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many deaths, anguish, isolation, and despair, and still to be assessed economic damage. These impacts are compounded by a cascade of failures in communication and community partnerships. A National Commission on the COVID-19 Pandemic to systematically gather and evaluate comprehensive information is necessary to confront these problems and guide how Congress can act to strengthen our health system and reduce the impact of future pandemics.