Preparing for the next public health emergency

December 21, 2022 – Developing life-saving vaccines, directing funding toward pandemic preparedness, building collaborations between public and private entities, and ensuring strict and efficient regulation will all be needed to prepare for future health emergencies, said Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Kizzmekia Corbett at a mid-December Congressional hearing.

Corbett, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases, spoke along with three other experts at a December 14 hearing of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. In her previous role at the National Institutes of Health, Corbett helped develop a leading COVID-19 vaccine.

“The truth is that while we would all like to put the pandemic behind us, one fact remains: The virus and the medical and social implications of it are here to stay,” Corbett told committee members. She pointed out that, over the previous week, the U.S. averaged over 60,000 new cases of COVID-19 each day, and on December 13, 400 Americans died COVID-related deaths. In addition, the nation is currently dealing with the so-called “tripledemic” of COVID, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

“On top of that, there are over 20 viral families that are constantly poised as pandemic threats,” she said. “As time will tell, it is not a question of if another pandemic will arise, but when.” Corbett stressed the importance of continuing to fund research not just for COVID-19 but for all other viral and bacterial diseases.

Listen to Corbett’s Congressional testimony: Preparing For And Preventing The Next Public Health Emergency: Lessons Learned From The Coronavirus Crisis (Corbett at 22:20).