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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Scientists and public health experts are trying to leverage lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic to spur the development of technologies and infrastructure needed to stop the next big outbreak.

Why it matters: Scientists predict infectious disease outbreaks will become more frequent, and the COVID-19 pandemic showed the enormous costs of not being adequately prepared.

Driving the news: Eric Lander, the newly confirmed White House science adviser, told AP's Seth Borenstein that, when the next pandemic-potential virus emerges, he wants to be able to have a vaccine available in about 100 days.

  • The main route to achieving that timeline depends on the further development of "plug-and-play" vaccine platforms, like the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and determining if they can be tested — and brought to market — more rapidly.
  • There are also efforts underway to create universal vaccines that protect against a range of flu viruses or coronaviruses, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes. But they face a number of technical and financial hurdles.

Beyond vaccines, there are calls to build out early warning systems for pandemics.

  • The technology exists to spot emerging pathogens, but there is a need to coordinate it globally, according to recommendations released today by the Milken Institute.
  • The authors say there's a need for a nongovernmental coordinating center that sits aside governments and works with existing institutions, including the WHO, and that better leverages the capabilities of the private sector. They envision building capacity at the local level for labs to sample and sequence pathogens and then feed that information into an appropriate response network.
  • "We don’t have a robust local presence or communication vehicle right now," says Esther Krofah, executive director of FasterCures at the Milken Institute.

Yes, but: Geopolitics can get in the way of the global buy-in and coordination needed for pandemic surveillance.

  • Our thought bubble: "Technologies like mRNA vaccines that can cover for inevitable and impossible-to-fix political weaknesses will be particularly valuable going forward," Axios' Bryan Walsh notes.

The bottom line: "The COVID-19 pandemic showed the fault lines of what we thought we were prepared for," says Carly Gasca of the Milken Institute.

Go deeper

Sep 10, 2021 - Health

FDA "will follow the science" to approve COVID vaccine for kids under 12

A nurse gives a boy a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The FDA said on Friday that it is "working around the clock" to support the process of making the coronavirus vaccine available for children under the age of 12.

Why it matters: The number of children getting hospitalized due to the virus is increasing, with some infectious disease doctors worrying that the Delta variant could be causing more serious illness in kids.

Updated 22 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Court reinstates DeSantis' mask mandate ban in Florida schools

Florida Governor DeSantis holds a news conference at the Florida Department of Health office in Viera, Florida. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The First District Court of Appeal on Friday granted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) approval to uphold an order banning mask mandates in schools, per court documents filed Friday.

Why it matters: The move reverses a decision from earlier this week that paused the state's ability to enforce a ban on strict mask mandates in schools. The state will be able to resume punishing school districts that enforce mandates, which up until this point has included withholding funds from schools.