An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Updated: Apr 8
In the past few weeks, I have received endorsements from biosecurity experts like Dr.
Kevin Esvelt of MIT, Andrew Weber, President Obama’s Assistant Secretary of Defense
for Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Defense, Dr. Stanley Plotkin, Inventor of the Rubella
vaccine, and from the pandemic prevention organization “Guarding Against
Pandemics.” I want to explain why this group of endorsements is particularly meaningful to me.
Covid-19 was devastating for thousands of Oregon families: folks lost loved ones, jobs,
and opportunities to do the things they care about. Part of the reason the pandemic
caused so much harm was simply the nature of the virus itself, which was out of our
control. But the bigger problem was that we simply weren’t ready for a pandemic in the
Former director of the Center for Disease Control Robert Redfield has said as much, saying America was “unprepared” to fight this viral threat. Not only did our lack of preparation lead to thousands of preventable deaths, but it was incredibly expensive, as economists estimate that the pandemic cost America’s economy more than a trillion dollars. Imagine how much we would have saved if, in the years leading up to 2020, we had invested just a few billion more in getting our public health system ready. Investing in better Personal Protective Equipment, better disease surveillance, better testing, and bigger factories to make vaccines doses more quickly would have made a huge difference in our fight against Covid-19.
Yet despite seeing the havoc wreaked by Covid, Congress hasn’t done anything to
make sure we’re more prepared next time. Experts believe that there may be as high as
a 20% chance that we see a disease as bad as Covid appear in the next decade –
that’s far too high for us to be sitting on our heels. We need to be as proactive as
possible about getting our public health system ready for the task, so that next time, we can make sure things go far easier for Oregon families.
My belief in the need to invest now to prevent the next pandemic is a big part of why I’ve decided to run for Congress in the newly created Oregon Sixth district. I’ve spent much of the last seven years of my career working with the pandemic prevention community, listening to folks who were raising alarms about the potential for an outbreak way back in 2015. My first hand experience in this field gives me valuable perspective on what we need to do – now I want to bring that perspective to Washington.
Right now, there’s a proposal on the table known as the “Apollo Program for
Biodefense.” It’s a 10 year plan to invest $60 billion dollars – just a small fraction of the
economic cost of Covid – into preparing for another pandemic. In Congress, I want to
work with anyone who will listen – Democrats, Republicans, you name it – to get that bill passed, and to get our country ready to face any viral threat. We need progress on this issue, not partisan fighting: preventing another pandemic is bigger than any political divides, and it’s something I think we should all be able to get behind.
No one wants to see schools close, businesses shut down, or hospitals be
overwhelmed ever again. But if we don’t prepare now, we won’t be any more ready next
time than we were in 2020. Oregonians deserve politicians who will fight to make sure
Covid is the last pandemic that ever disrupts our lives – I’ve joined this race in order to
do just that.
Contact: Avital Balwit