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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
22 Jul 2023

NextImg:White House Announces New Pandemic Response Office

The Biden administration is setting up a new pandemic preparedness office that will aid the country in countering such large-scale health threats.

“As part of the President’s commitment to ensure that our country is more prepared for a pandemic than we were when he took office, the Administration is standing up the Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy (OPPR),” said the White House as it announced the launch on Friday.

A permanent office in the Executive Office of the President, OPPR will be “charged with leading, coordinating, and implementing actions related to preparedness for, and response to, known and unknown biological threats or pathogens that could lead to a pandemic or to significant public health-related disruptions in the United States.”

The new department will replace the existing “COVID-19 Response Team and Mpox Team at the White House” and aid in addressing potential public health threats and outbreaks from COVID-19, polio, RSV, avian and human influenza, and Mpox.

Then-Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Rath Hoffman and Joint Staff Surgeon Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs brief the media about the Defense Department’s response to COVID-19, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., March 16, 2020. (DoD/ Lisa Ferdinando)

Retired Major General Paul Friedrichs will head the OPPR. Major General Friedrichs is currently Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the National Security Council (NSC), said the statement. He will assume the post on Aug. 7.

“Prior to joining the NSC, Dr. Friedrichs most recently served as the Joint Staff Surgeon and the medical advisor to the Department of Defense (DoD) COVID-19 Task Force.”

The new department will oversee the development, manufacturing, and procurement of next-generation medical countermeasures to pandemic threats, including utilizing emerging technologies. The office will work with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on next-generation vaccines and treatments for public health threats like COVID-19.

The Biden administration’s announcement of the new OPPR office comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) is engaged in drafting a global convention on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.

Member states of the WHO have been working on the accord since February last year, a draft of which is expected to be submitted for consideration next year at the organization’s decision-making body.

The aim of the accord will be to reportedly build resilience to pandemics, support the prevention, detection, and response to outbreaks having pandemic potential, ensure “equitable access” to pandemic countermeasures, and support “global coordination through a stronger and more accountable WHO,” per the organization.

The convention will exist under the WHO constitution and will have both legally-binding as well as non-legally binding components.

“Member States will decide the terms of the accord, including whether any of its provisions will be legally binding on Member States as a matter of international law,” according to the WHO.

In case a member of the accord does not meet their obligations, “it would be up to Member States to decide if and what compliance mechanisms would be included in the new accord on pandemic preparedness and response.”

A sign outside World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva on Aug. 17, 2020. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

As the accord will exist under the WHO constitution, the organization can have the authority to determine national health policies. Article 19 of the WHO Constitution provides the World Health Assembly, which is the decision-making body of the WHO, the power to adopt conventions on health.

Article 21 expands these powers, giving the Assembly the authority to adopt rules regarding “sanitary and quarantine requirements and other procedures” during periods of global outbreaks. This essentially gives the WHO the right to determine lockdowns.

Article 21 also gives the organization authority to decide what amounts to a pandemic, how testing can be carried out, what test results would be considered positive or negative, and which drugs to suppress and approve.

It is unknown whether there is any relationship between the Biden administration’s OPPR and the WHO’S pandemic accord.

In February, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) introduced bill S.444, which would require any international pandemic agreement by the WHO to be subjected to ratification by the U.S. Senate.

Since the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak started in Wuhan, China, the U.S. government has imposed various measures aimed at controlling and ending the pandemic.

In March 2020, the administration declared a nationwide emergency. Several states implemented shutdowns to prevent the spread of the disease, with places like schools, restaurants, and bars closed. The White House also imposed social distancing measures.

In April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended Americans wear a mask when outside their homes.

In December of that year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Pfizer’s mRNA vaccines. That same month, Moderna’s vaccine also received EUA approval. A few months later, in February 2021, EUA was given to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. Later on, booster shots of vaccines were also green-lit.

The government continued to promote vaccination against COVID-19 all through the pandemic period. The COVID-19 public health emergency declaration came to an end in May this year.

First-grade student, 6-year-old Leonel Campos, receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Arturo Velasquez Institute on Nov. 12, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

However, many of the promoted pandemic-era measures have been found to have had adverse effects.

A March 2023 report from global macro investment firm Phinance Technologies found that COVID-19 vaccines led to more than 26 million people in the United States suffering injuries, costing almost $150 billion to the economy.

A January 2022 meta-analysis (pdf) of 24 studies determined that lockdowns had “little to no” public health effects. On the contrary, such measures have imposed “enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted.”

“In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument,” the analysis said.

Meanwhile, the policy of mandatory face masks is reported to have been harmful to people. A February 2021 study found that 68 percent of parents believed masking harmed their children, with reported harms including headaches, impaired learning, difficulty in concentration, and less happiness.

It remains to be seen whether the new pandemic-preparedness department will follow the previous office with similar regulations or if it will adopt a different methodology for implementing rules during times of crisis.