Biden administration revamps health department to create independent pandemic division

The Biden administration has revamped its health department to create an independent division that will focus exclusively on the country’s response to pandemics and health emergencies.

Sources told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the move will see the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, better known as ASPR, split into separate divisions.

In a memo, ASPR manager Dawn O’Connell wrote to staff members that the move will help the division respond more quickly to future national emergencies and disasters while also planning to build better emergency response capabilities. hiring and contracting.

O’Connell added that the change is an important next step for the organization, which was established in 2006 in response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters.

“These changes are complementary to ASPR’s broader reorganization, which we will begin to implement in the second half of the year,” O’Connell wrote in his memo. “While the name change is immediate, an enhanced hiring and contracting capability will be put in place over a period of time to ensure a seamless and gradual transition of key responsibilities from the Assistant Secretary for Administration to our team. ASPR.”

The new changes come as some have shared concern over the government’s response to health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic and monkeypox outbreak.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Senate Health Committee, recently criticized the administration’s response to the ongoing monkeypox outbreak, as the administration announced plans earlier this month to distribute up to 144,000 additional doses of monkeypox. vaccine.

O’Connell briefed lawmakers on the latest changes to his organization on Tuesday because the Department of Health and Human Services has the authority to reorganize divisions without congressional approval, a source told the Post. Lawmakers plan to lobby officials about how the new change will affect ongoing efforts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has opposed ASPR in the past over decisions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, told the newspaper that the agency supports the vision of O’Connell, calling her “an essential partner for us”. in the fight against threats to public health.

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