Federal health officials have opened access to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to provide aid this flu season.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it is making additional supplies of Tamiflu available to respond to an increased demand for antiviral medication during this flu season, including through the SNS.
The SNS is a part of the federal medical response infrastructure made to provide medical countermeasures for states and other entities in the event of a public health emergency. The supplies within the stockpile are used as a short-term buffer when the immediate supply of needed materials and resources is not sufficient.
The HHS said that the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) previously extended flexibility for states to use Tamiflu, or Oseltamivir, in state stockpiles that were previously reserved for use in the event of an influenza pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on December 14 that it estimates that at least 13 million illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations, and 7,300 deaths have occurred from influenza in the 2022-2023 season.
It is worth noting that studies have shown other conditions, such as obesity, can make people more vulnerable to the virus, and make it more likely that individuals will experience complications if they become infected.
A 2011 study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases noted that “Very obese people are far more likely to die than others hospitalized for infection with the pandemic 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.”
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra sent a letter to U.S. governors stating that HHS was prepared to offer assistance for responses to respiratory illnesses.
“As we head into the winter months, let me reiterate that there are resources and tools available to you and your team to strengthen your capacity to respond to RSV and other infectious diseases, including flexibilities that have been in place during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE),” said Becerra in the letter.
The CDC made this announcement to provide guidance for clinicians to prioritize antiviral treatment given the reduced availability of Tamiflu.
“Today we are taking action so that every jurisdiction can meet the increased demand for Tamiflu this flu season,” said Becerra in the most recent press release. “State stockpiles can be utilized, and if jurisdictions need access to the Strategic National Stockpile, they now have it to respond to the current seasonal flu outbreak.”
HHS says that it has been preparing for months with jurisdictions to prepare in the event of a difficult flu season and provide aid to strained healthcare systems.
“The actions taken today to increase access to Tamiflu show our preparedness system at work,” said ASPR Assistant Secretary Dawn O’Connell. “The country is more prepared for this surge because the SNS holds strategic stores of Tamiflu.”