HHS Orders 500 Million N95 Respirators

N95 respirators block at least 95 percent of 0.3-micron size particles

mask, gloves and a thermometer

As part of the US government’s efforts to respond to the global outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it intends to purchase 500 million N95 respirators over the next 18 months.

This additional inventory is for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).

The SNS currently holds millions of N95 respirators that may be used in accordance with the Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This SNS acquisition is part of a broader effort to maximize the availability of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers who are on the front lines in mitigating community spread of COVID-19 disease. 

Announced by the HHS on March 4, 2020, this acquisition encourages manufacturers to immediately increase the production of N95s for use by healthcare professionals in the USA.

These guaranteed orders offer reassurance to manufacturers that they will not be left with excess supplies if private-sector orders are canceled once the COVID-19 outbreak response subsides. 

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Respirator manufacturers typically avoid ramping up production without such a guarantee. Private sector orders would be filled before the SNS order.

In addition, on March 2, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted a request from the CDC for an emergency use authorization to allow healthcare personnel to use certain National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health approved respirators - not currently regulated by the FDA - during the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus outbreak.

Together, the SNS acquisition and the FDA and CDC action will help maximize the number of respirators available to meet the needs of the U.S. health care system.

The 'N95' designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles.

The Strategic National Stockpile is the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.

Strategic National Stockpile news published by Precision Vaccinations.