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The Department of Health and Human Services is planning to create an independent division that would be tasked with leading pandemic responses.

According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration wants to bring the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response into a division that would be on the same level as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

The division would be tasked with guiding a national response to health emergencies, according to people who spoke with the outlet.

A letter obtained by the Washington Post states that the decision would allow it “to mobilize a coordinated national response more quickly and stably during future disasters and emergencies while equipping us with greater hiring and contracting capabilities,” according to Dawn O’Connell, who leads the ASPR, in a memo to her staff on Wednesday.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as seen in 2006 in Washington, D.C.
( Alex Wong)

The implementation of the new office will likely be phased in over two years and comes at a time when there are frustrations within the Biden administration, which has been frustrated with delays within the government over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement to the Washington Post, a CDC spokesperson said the agency is supportive of O’Connell’s vision and called the ASPR “a critical partner for us in addressing public health threats.”

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“We will continue to work closely together to advance and protect the health of the American people,” the spokesperson said.

At the same time, according to the Washington Post, several Biden administration officials said that the announcement caught them by surprise.

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The move comes at nearly the same time as the CDC endorsed an advisory committee’s recommendation that the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine should be used for adults.

Fox News’ Julia Musto contributed to this report.

 

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