HHS Acts to Bolster Respirator Stockpile For COVID-19

HHS announced that they will purchase 500 million N95 respirators over the next 18 months.

In response to the spread of novel coronavirus infections (COVID-19) in the United States, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that they will purchase 500 million N95 respirators in the next 18 months.

HHS has guaranteed orders to encourage manufacturers to increase production of N95 respirators.

“These guaranteed orders offer reassurance to manufacturers that they will not be left with excess supplies if private sector orders are cancelled once the COVID-19 response subsides. Manufacturers typically avoid ramping up production without such a guarantee,” HHS officials wrote in a statement on March 4.

Orders from the private sector will be filled before the HHS Strategic National Stockpile order. The Strategic National Stockpile is the largest supply of emergency medical equipment and pharmaceuticals for use in a public health event during which local supplies are depleted.

“The SNS currently holds millions of N95 respirators that may be used in accordance with the Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators guidance released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” statement authors wrote.

The purchase is intended to increase the availability of protective equipment to health care workers. Consumers have bought up a large portion of the existing mask supply, but experts say you only need a mask if you are sick.

Solicitation for proposals began March 4th, and companies have until March 18th to come to an agreement with HHS.

The HHS statement also mentioned that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had taken action to increase access to respirators on March 2nd.

Most respirators on the market are intended for industrial use. The FDA authorized certain National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approved respirators to be used in health care settings during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The request for emergency use authorization was made by the CDC. The respiratory devices can filter airborne particles when properly equipped, an important measure during the outbreak of a respiratory infection.

On February 4th, the FDA issued another emergency use authorization pertaining to COVID-19 diagnostic panels.

These measures come as US health officials prepare for the possibility of an increase in local transmission, though spread has not been as severe as other import countries outside China such as Italy or Iran thus far.

For the most recent counts in the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States and abroad, visit the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor.