How is the U.S. preparing for the next pandemic?

Boston 25 News spent weeks asking leading U.S. health experts what’s being done now to help us prepare for the next pandemic. Some of those officials said the answers may be concerning.

Dr. Louis Profeta is an emergency room doctor in Indianapolis. He sounded the alarm years ago because he thought we weren’t prepared to handle a pandemic.

“This had been something that had been bothering me for years,” Dr. Profeta said.

He and other medical professionals believe this pandemic may not be the big one to watch for. He said there are many things we should be doing now to prepare for another pandemic down the road.

“We cannot have health care centers climbing over themselves, hoarding masks, or people stealing from them, so we have to have the infrastructure in place,” Dr. Profeta said.

Taking a closer look at bats

Taking a critical look at how equipped our health care industry is may be just one part of it. Another may be found amongst the high-pitched chirps from bats found near the campus of Montana State University.

Researchers believe bats were linked to the outbreak of COVID-19. Epidemiologist Raina Plowright and her team collect the bats in nets and take samples.

“We look at their immune status and their nutritional status. We look at many, many parameters that tell us what their health is, and that allows us to know what are the factors driving the infectious cycles within the bats,” Plowright said.

“Our work is focused very much on prevention, but to prevent spillover of pathogens from bats to humans, we have to understand how they circulate in bats and why they spill over from bats,” she said.

Government’s role

In Washington, former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge, the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, lead the commission on biodefense. They’re pushing for a program that would create stockpiles of vaccines and tests when an infectious disease pops up in human clusters.

“Some people will be infected, but it won’t be a pandemic and it won’t be as painful as this year has been for America,” Ridge said.

Liberman echoed that.

“You’ve got to not walk away from this field once this pandemic ends,” he said.

The program has been presented to President Joe Biden at a cost of 10 billion dollars per year.

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