Federal Legal Preparedness Tools for Facilitating Medical Countermeasure Use during Public Health Emergencies

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 41 (s1):22-27 (2013)
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Abstract

Law can greatly facilitate responses to public health emergencies, including naturally-occurring infectious disease outbreaks and intentional or accidental exposures to chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents. At the federal level, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, as the lead for federal public health and medical responses to public health emergencies and incidents, has a range of authorities to support federal, state, tribal, local, and territorial responses. For example, under the Public Health Service Act, the Secretary may provide temporary assistance to States to meet health emergency needs or deploy medicine and supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. The Secretary also may determine that a disease or disorder presents a public health emergency, which may be the first step in triggering other critical legal authorities for response.Since the 2001 anthrax attacks, one focus of public health preparedness has been on developing, distributing, and rapidly dispensing medical countermeasures for CBRN emergencies and pandemics.

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