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HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday extended liability protection to a wide range of healthcare providers, suppliers, drugmakers and other entities while they help address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the declaration, they would be immune from any claim related to "the manufacture, distribution, administration, or use of medical countermeasures ... except for claims involving 'willful misconduct.'"
The order went into effect on February 4, 2020.
"I have determined that the spread of ... COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency," Azar said in the order.
In times of emergency, people or organizations might be hesitant to help because they don't want to risk being sued over the assistance that they provide. The order is likely an effort to alleviate those fears so the industry can marshal the full extent of its resources to address COVID-19.
"I have considered the desirability of encouraging the design, development, clinical testing, or investigation, manufacture, labeling, distribution, formulation, packaging, marketing, promotion, sale, purchase, donation, dispensing, prescribing, administration, licensing, and use of the covered countermeasure," Azar said.
HHS made the declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, which Congress passed in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to provide liability immunity in times of emergency.