Calls for Biden to declare RSV a public health emergency go unanswered

By Hannah Lee

On Nov. 14, 2022, the Children’s Hospital Organization (CHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asked President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to declare Respiratory Syncytial Virus (or RSV) a national and public health emergency. This was in response to the growing levels of hospitalizations for children with respiratory viruses. Pediatric units across the United States are completely overwhelmed with babies and toddlers with RSV or the flu, and some parts of the country, such as Rhode Island have run out of pediatric beds.

The CHO and AAP have called upon government officials to declare a national and public health emergency to help support pediatric staff and hospitals. In a letter sent to the President and Human Services Secretary, the organizations wrote, “The confluence of these capacity issues in pediatric hospitals and communities requires nimbleness and flexibilities that can only be provided through a Presidential declaration of an emergency under the Stafford Act or National Emergencies Act and a Public Health Emergency declaration.” They also mentioned that support was given during the height of the COVID-19 surge, and hoped for the same support to keep up with the increasing needs of children in the United States.

The emergency declarations would increase the flexibility of pediatric practices to respond to the influx of patients and be able to use federal resources, such as assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Biden administration has not declared RSV a national or public health emergency and has stated that it would provide support on a case-by-case basis for hospitals and counties.