U.S. Congressman Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts has introduced a bill to establish a blockchain network capable of overseeing the distribution of personal protection equipment, ventilators and other necessary medical equipment during the current pandemic.
The April 23 bill, named the “Strategic National Stockpile [SNS] Enhancement and Transparency Act” or H.R. 6607, states that the National Emergency Biodefense Network, a network intended to regulate the supply of drugs, vaccines, medical devices, and other supplies will be “developed and implemented using a private blockchain.”
Rep. Lynch proposed a $25 million budget through fiscal 2022 to carry out the measures contained in the bill, which include using blockchain technology to monitor the availability of supplies in the SNS and for individual U.S. states using the network.
In a statement on April 29, the congressman explained his reasons for introducing a blockchain-based approach to fight the pandemic:
“Many [health care 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. We depend on the SNS to supplement state reserves of biodefense supplies and equipment and H.R. 6607 will ensure the readiness of the SNS to respond to future crises. 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.”
Making the pandemic political
Lynch’s bill for states to better utilize the resources contained within the SNS comes a few weeks after the Trump administration turned it into a political tool. Speaking to the press on April 2, Jared Kushner implied that the stockpile and its potential life-saving equipment belonged exclusively to the federal government and not to the states.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ website originally stated the purpose of the SNS was to ensure “that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency”, but it was changed following Kushner’s statement to describe the stockpile as a “short-term stopgap buffer” for states.
Blockchain technology in the time of COVID
Many others in the United States are looking to blockchain technology for solutions during the current pandemic.
Congress has been considering implementing blockchain-based voting if stay-at-home or social distancing orders are likely to continue through the 2020 elections. Even larger bodies like the Centers for Disease Control have been working to develop contract tracing platforms to contain COVID-19 by utilizing blockchain.