Five Legal Preparedness Challenges for Responding to Future Public Health Emergencies

Since the anthrax attacks of 2001 and the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak of 2003, significant efforts have been made to develop and revise a range of legal tools designed to strengthen public health emergency responses.

The 2009 H1N1 pandemic provided an unprecedented opportunity to implement and exercise many of these mechanisms. At the global level, the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern pursuant to the revised International Health Regulations, and many governments declared national or regional emergencies. At the U.S. federal level, the Secretary of Health and Human Services made public health emergency and Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act declarations. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration issued Emergency Use Authorizations (to allow the emergency use of certain antiviral medications, diagnostic tests, and respirators during the pandemic), and President Obama declared a National Emergency (to authorize the use of temporary waivers or modifications of certain federal requirements related to health care facility responses). Select state and local governments also declared emergencies.