On October 18, President Biden signed a national security memorandum intended to prepare the U.S. to detect, respond to, and mitigate the consequences of the next large-scale viral or biological threat. The memo is addressed to 20 federal agencies, with the National Science Foundation notably missing from the list. The memo directs agencies to prioritize biodefense and pandemic preparedness and provide further research and development of tools that would help expand the country’s early warning systems.
The plan pulls from goals set by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The memo specifies building on lessons learned from the COVID 19 pandemic, with no mention of the numerous behavioral and social factors that were overlooked and underestimated that undermined the U.S. response to COVID 19, even once the vaccine was approved and readily available. For those of us listening carefully to Dr. Francis Collins as he stepped down from leading the National Institute of Health, the omission of considerations of communication, trust, and health literacy is perplexing. Prior to the vaccine, behaviors such as social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing were effective strategies to slow the spread of the virus.
FABBS has and will continue to bring attention to the critical role of the behavioral and brain sciences to minimize the consequences of COVID 19 and to prepare for future pandemics.