U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) recently called upon the Trump Administration to immediately staff up the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cautioning that neglecting the agency presented a grave risk to both global health and the nation’s security.
The CDC has faced a level of uncertainty in recent months as a hiring freeze placed by the Trump Administration resulted in approximately 700 vacant jobs in the agency, which could endanger its ability to fulfill its core mission and protect public health from disease epidemics and acts of bioterrorism.
“Every day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works to protect America from health and safety threats,” the members said in a public letter. “On any given day, those efforts may include interventions to combat the nationwide opioid epidemic, to respond to the ongoing Zika virus outbreak, or to prevent and reduce the burdens of heart disease and diabetes.”
The members continued, stating that they worried the vaccines had left the CDC unable to fulfill its mission of developing and applying disease prevention and control, environmental health, and health promotion and education activities. Additionally, they said, the vacancies, including those within the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, raised serious questions about whether the CDC has the personnel available to detect and immediately respond to sudden health emergencies – whether domestic or foreign.
The letter indicated that while the members were aware the Trump Administration has since lifted its hiring freeze, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price had kept the freeze in place, which led to the hiring vacancies.