Permanent Pandemic Office to be Launched by White House

The White House has tapped retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul Friedrichs to lead a newly created office to manage and respond to future pandemics.

© AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Credit to: The Hill Healthcare Newsletter

Freidrichs will serve as the inaugural director of the Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy starting Aug. 7, the White House said Friday.

Freidrichs previously served as joint staff surgeon at the Pentagon, where he coordinated all issues related to health services, including the military's COVID-19 response.

A provision creating the office was included in last year's spending bill as part of a bipartisan pandemic preparedness bill championed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and former Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who retired.

"I’m glad to see my bipartisan PREVENT Pandemics Act being put into action so our nation is better prepared for the next threat like COVID," Murray said in a statement.

"I worked hard to write and pass this legislation, because it was painfully clear to me our nation was not ready for a crisis like COVID, and I think it’s painfully clear to everyone we cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes."

But as late as April, when Ashish Jha was preparing to step down as White House COVID-19 response coordinator, it was unclear who would run the office or when they would even formally establish it.

In a statement on Friday, the White House said the establishment of the office was part of Biden’s effort to “ensure that our country is more prepared for a pandemic than we were when he took office.”

Freidrichs will start his new position as the threat from the coronavirus is fading. The COVID-19 public health emergency ended in May, and the administration has wound down its response.

But his office will be focused on more than COVID-19. The White House said it will address potential public health outbreaks and threats from mpox, polio, avian and human influenza, and RSV.

Among other responsibilities, Freidrichs will oversee efforts to develop, manufacture and procure the next generation of vaccines and treatments, and ensure the Strategic National Stockpile is well stocked.

The law requires the pandemic office to brief Congress every two years.

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