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US Congressman floats blockchain bill to track COVID-19 national supplies

Pharmaceutical medicines supply

Last week, U.S. Congressman Stephen Lynch introduced a bill proposing to create a National Emergency Biodefense Network using blockchain to improve the supply of medical essentials during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Called the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) Enhancement and Transparency Act, the bill recommends using distributed ledger technology (DLT) for tracking supplies in SNS. The network would bring transparency to the availability of essential medical supplies in each state and the SNS. It also aims to provide funding to create state repositories and setting up state-based blockchain nodes for tracking supplies. 

The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) is the central repository of antibiotics, vaccines, antitoxins, and other critical medical supplies. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed insufficient stockpiles of masks and ventilators at the SNS and it’s struggling to keep up with the demands from states. Currently, a large proportion of medical supplies in the U.S. are imported from China, and President Trump is pushing to eliminate this reliance on another country by manufacturing products in the States

“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis we have watched health care providers and centres pushed to their breaking points as they risk their lives to provide vital care to their communities,” said Congressman Lynch. 

“Many of these providers have been forced to work without sufficient equipment and supplies. Unfortunately, when states have sought help from the SNS, their requests have gone unanswered.”

While the current crisis has exposed weaknesses in the SNS, Lynch hopes to avoid such instances in the future by using DLT. Additionally, the house representative recommends authorizing $25 million for each 2021 and 2022 to develop the blockchain network.

“By adopting a private blockchain system, we can verify the status of our biodefense capacity in real-time which will allow us to be better prepared,” added Lynch. 

Last week, IBM announced Rapid Supplier Connect, a blockchain supply chain solution that aims to mitigate COVID-19 shortages. New York hospitals and healthcare providers are joining the network as buyers. 

Some other applications of blockchain for coronavirus include contact tracing solutions and immunity passports.