A little-known federal agency in charge of stockpiling vaccines and mobilizing supplies in health emergencies is being reorganized to apply lessons learned in the Covid pandemic.

“It would be malpractice if we came out of a three-year pandemic and looked the same way as when we started,” Dawn O’Connell, head of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response, said in an interview.

She called the agency the “swiss army knife” of the Department of Health and Human Services. In recent years, it has played a leading role in the Covid-19 pandemic, shortages of baby formula and other emergencies.

That’s why O’Connell is shaking things up. The reorganization, while largely structural, is intended to cement important programs that were established during the pandemic and make sure they have the funding and resources needed to continue doing that work. 

“One of my biggest fears is building all of this capacity and then losing it,” said O’Connell, who is HHS’s assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

During the pandemic, the preparedness administration was elevated from a staff office to an agency within HHS. It oversaw some of the most critical parts of the country’s pandemic response, including the Strategic National Stockpile of vaccines and therapeutics, as well as HHS Coordination Operations and Response Element, or HCORE, which helped coordinate interagency operations and logistics for Covid. 

But those programs have since been prominent in other health emergencies, too, and O’Connell is making sure that they’re able to continue to do so going forward. As such, the stockpile operation will become its own office that reports directly to O’Connell and HCORE, an effort previously led by the Defense Department, will too become its own office. 

O’Connell said that she wants the agency to be able to swiftly respond to whatever health threat comes next. 

To improve oversight and efficiency within the country’s health supply chain, the strategic administration is also creating an Industrial Base Management and Supply Chain Office. The idea is to help the agency secure funding needed to scale up the domestic supply chain beyond the supplemental funding it’s gotten during the Covid pandemic.

“Our reorganization establishes a structure that accounts for our expanded mission, addresses our new capabilities, prioritizes program accountability, and is clear and straightforward in its naming conventions,” the administration said in a statement. 

The reorganization comes on the heels of another major shakeup at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after the agency faced criticism for its handling of some aspects of the Covid pandemic. 

Source: https://www.supplychainbrain.com/articles/36670-vaccine-stockpiling-agency-gets-a-revamp-after-covid-lessons