Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Skip over global navigation links
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Strategic National Stockpile Response to COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions


Q. What is the Strategic National Stockpile?

The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) is the nation's supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for use in a public health emergency.

It is primarily designed and resourced to address discrete events like smaller, limited displacements or localized disasters, such as hurricanes or terrorist attacks. The stockpile also contains congressionally mandated countermeasures for chemical, biological, and radiological emergencies that are not available on the commercial market.

In the event state and local supplies are depleted and commercial supplies are unavailable, states may request federal assistance from HHS, including for SNS assets. The supplies, medicines, and devices for life-saving care contained in the stockpile can be used as a short-term stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts of these materials may not be immediately available.

Q. What is the Strategic National Stockpile’s role in the COVID-19 response?

The SNS Operations Center activated on January 30, 2020 to provide ongoing coordination in support of the COVID-19 response.

To supplement state and local governments on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak, the SNS has deployed personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 respirators, surgical/face masks, face shields, gloves, and disposable gowns, to assist in preventing community-based COVID-19 transmission in all 50 states, the nation’s four largest cities, and U.S. territories and ventilators to areas that need supplemental supplies. At the onset of the global pandemic, the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) integrated  with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the National Response Coordination Center, and most recently with the HHS Secretary’s Operations Center, to coordinate logistics operations in order to leverage all available resources to support the COVID-19 response.

Many states also have products stockpiled that can be used under current guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On March 21, HHS awarded contracts to incrementally purchase approximately 600 million N95 respirators over the next 18 months. This purchase will encourage manufacturers to increase production of N95 respirators now with the guarantee that they will not be left with excess supplies if private sector orders are cancelled once the COVID-19 response subsides.

Additional response activities include:

  • Delivering equipment and supplies to support deployed teams of trained health professionals serving with ASPR’s National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). NDMS teams deployed to staff designated quarantine locations across the country that received passengers evacuated from Wuhan, China, Diamond Princess cruise ship, and from the Grand Princess cruise ship.
  • Working with federal partners and commercial supply chain partners to assess the supply and demand of overall PPE stocks across the country.
  • Partnering with other federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and Department of Veterans Affairs to develop acquisition strategies that incentivize industry to expand PPE production while not exacerbating supply challenges.
  • Coordinating with manufacturers, distributors, and public health to maximize available supply by helping to identify a strategy for prioritizing orders that support public health priorities.
  • Collaborating with experts in worker safety, infection control, and clinical practice.
  • Providing Receipt, Stage & Store (RSS) and Federal Medical Station (FMS) training to state, local, tribal and territorial responders.

Q.  What is the process for requesting assets from the stockpile?

In the event state and local supplies are depleted and commercial supplies are unavailable, states may request federal assistance from HHS. This includes requests for SNS assets such as PPE.

Once assistance is approved, the HHS Secretary, or the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) under the HHS Secretary’s authority, will direct the SNS to deploy supplies. The state is then responsible for distributing the supplies to areas in need based on established distribution plans.

Regional Emergency Coordinators (RECs) assigned to each of the HHS regions throughout the country should work directly with the public health authorities to determine PPE, ventilator, MCM and FMS needs and assist with those requests. For areas of intense COVID-19 transmission, the REC may submit a request from the region to the HHS Secretary’s Operations Center (SOC) for additional supplies. This SOC coordination is important to manage simultaneous requests from the regions for supplies.

Q.  What is the process for Tribes to request stockpile assets?

Tribes may request SNS assets in the following two ways:

  • A tribe may contact its State Health Office to make a request for PPE that is for healthcare purposes only and after the Tribe has exhausted all other supplies. It is the state’s responsibility to include the Tribal request in the state’s request to the HHS Secretary’s Operations Center (SOC).  It is also the state’s responsibility to ensure that the resources make it to the Tribe after the states receive it.
  • Recognizing the Sovereign Status of Tribes and the direct government-to-government relationship with Tribes, Tribes after having exhausted its supply of PPE for healthcare, may contact its IHS Emergency Management Point of Contact (EMPOC) who will prioritize the request to the IHS Headquarters. IHS Headquarters will then make the request to the SOC and keep track of when requests are fulfilled.

It is extremely important to remember that access to the SNS is limited to those PPE requests that are for healthcare purposes onlyand it must be demonstrated that the Tribe has exhausted its supply. If a Tribe has a request for PPE that is not healthcare related (law enforcement or other), it must contact their FEMA Regional Tribal Liaison.

Q. How has PPE been distributed for the COVID-19 response?

The Strategic National Stockpile’s (SNS) role is to serve as a stopgap measure to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies and localized disasters when the commercial supply chain is disrupted. Many states have products stockpiled and are ordering their own supplies, as well. In early March, HHS began deploying PPE, such as N95 respirators, face masks, face shields, gowns, coveralls and gloves, from the SNS to jurisdictions in need in the most equitable way for a nationwide response. The allocation strategy for the first half of the overall PPE inventory in the SNS was primarily based on a pro-rata formula, which used 2010 U.S. Census data and was proportionate to the population size of each jurisdiction. Areas with high transmission received additional allocations by request. Jurisdictions receiving allocations included all 50 states, 4 large metropolitan areas (New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles County and Washington, D.C.) and 8 territories/island jurisdictions. It is important to note that the pro-rata allocations were likely less than what states requested. However, all jurisdictions received 100% of their allocations.

Following the initial population-based strategy, the remaining shipments from the SNS to the 62 jurisdictions were directed through the National Response Coordination Center. In this operating structure, resource allocation decisions are made by the Unified Coordination Group (UCG), which is comprised of FEMA, HHS, and public health leadership. The UCG directed the SNS to reserve 10% of the remaining PPE inventory at that time to supply federal frontline responders and then execute a final push of all PPE in the SNS inventory to the 62 jurisdictions. Distribution is complete for the continental United States.

Q. What products does the SNS hold that could be deployed for the COVID-19 response?

The SNS holds N95 respirators, surgical face masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as ventilators that could potentially be deployed if state and local supplies are diminished and commercial supplies are not available.

Q. Where is the SNS stored?

The SNS has medicines and supplies stored in strategically located warehouses throughout the country. Due to national security concerns, the locations and contents of the SNS warehouses are not publicly disclosed.

Q. Whose decision is it to release assets from the SNS?

HHS, in collaboration with other federal agencies, will review and evaluate each request for SNS assets, consider the situation, and determine a prompt course of action to release those assets that are most appropriate.

Q. Who is eligible to request assets (e.g., personal protective equipment) from the SNS?

The general public is not authorized to request products directly from the SNS. Members of the general public should speak to a healthcare professional on whether personal protective equipment (PPE) such as an N95 respirator is needed to protect their health. States, the four largest U.S. metropolitan areas, tribes, and U.S. territories are eligible to request federal assistance from HHS for SNS assets.

Q. How many N95 respirators does the SNS hold in inventory?

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). N95 respirators are respiratory protective devices designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. 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.

Q. What types of ventilators does the SNS hold?

The SNS holds an inventory of ventilators of various types that can be deployed during a public health emergency if public health and healthcare facilities need additional ventilators to care for patients. Currently, there are three ventilator models in the SNS: Covidien (Puritan Bennett) LP10, Vyaire (CareFusion) LTV1200, and the Zoll (Impact Implementation).

If hospitals need ventilators, the best source and first step should be to consult with the state public health department. If state and local supplies are depleted and commercial supplies are unavailable for the COVID-19 response, state-level health officials‒through the governor or the governor’s designee‒may request federal assistance from HHS. If assistance is approved, the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) will direct deployment of supplies from the SNS to state public health officials. The state is then responsible for distributing the supplies to areas in need.

Q. Does the SNS hold any antivirals to combat COVID-19?

The SNS does not currently hold any antiviral drugs to combat COVID-19. At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it.

Q. Is SNS accepting new medical countermeasure products to detect, prevent, and/or treat COVID-19?

The U.S. government launched a single point of entry website for innovators and product developers to submit brief descriptions of their diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, and other products or technologies relevant to COVID-19. Federal agencies are particularly interested in identifying products and technologies that have progressed into or beyond non-clinical studies, have established large-scale commercial Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) manufacturing capability, or use a platform already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

HHS ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority is working to identify medical countermeasures to combat COVID-19.  To learn more, see BARDA’s Partnering Opportunities.

  • This page last reviewed: January 15, 2021