Strategic National Stockpile still lacking critical medical supplies

The stocks of critical medical supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile are still well below federal targets more than 18 months after the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to HHS data reviewed by Politico

The federal government has built up the stockpile significantly in the last year, with more than 35 times more N95 masks and 10 times more ventilators now available than at the start of the pandemic, Politico reported June 30. But the stockpile is still short by hundreds of millions of  other items, including surgical masks, gloves and gowns. 

HHS has set a goal to have 265 million gowns, 400 million surgical masks and 4.5 billion gloves in the national stockpile. Current inventory includes 17.5 million gowns, 273 million surgical masks and 525 million gloves, an HHS spokesperson told Politico

The spokesperson told Politico: "The SNS is working to balance its stockpiling requirements with the ongoing needs of healthcare facilities." 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also helping build up the stockpile. 

Two senior government officials told Politico that part of the reason the U.S. hasn't met its stockpiling targets for supplies like gloves and gowns is because the nation's COVID-19 case count has dropped dramatically and hospitals and other providers aren't submitting requests for help with supplies. But, Politico noted, the stockpile is intended to help the U.S. prepare for unpredictable emergencies, and the government hasn't lowered its inventory targets with the weakening demand.

Now, a year and a half into the pandemic, the U.S. still doesn't have a good way to quickly scale up the production of drugs and medical supplies needed to supplement the Strategic National Stockpile, Politico reported. 

Government officials told Politico the federal government believes it currently has enough supply in the Strategic National Stockpile to handle small requests from states and to handle a moderate increase in cases due to COVID-19 variants, but if another nationwide surge occurs, the stockpile will only be able to supplement state supplies. 

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