CDC official steps aside as pandemic task force leader

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A top CDC official who has overseen the national public health agency's COVID-19 response is stepping aside, Politico reported Sept. 27, citing three people with knowledge of the matter.

Barbara Mahon, MD, deputy chief of the enteric diseases epidemiology branch at the CDC, will replace Henry Walke, MD, who has overseen the agency's pandemic response for more than a year, the sources told Politico.

Dr. Walke, who served as incident response manager for the COVID-19 response, will remain at the CDC as director of the agency's division of preparedness and emerging infections.

"Dr. Walke is not leaving the agency, he's just passing the torch on the response after serving as the incident manager for more than a year," CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed said in a statement shared with Becker's. "Shifts in response personnel and leadership are normal."

Dr. Walke is stepping aside from the incident manager role as the U.S. faces COVID-19 surges and after the FDA granted emergency use authorization Sept. 22 for a booster dose of Pfizer's shot for Americans who are 65 and older, have a job that increases their risk of infection or are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19.

His stepping aside also comes after Nancy Messonnier, MD, resigned in May as director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Dr. Messonnier remained the CDC's top respiratory disease official after resigning from her role leading the agency's COVID-19 vaccination efforts, but left the CDC earlier this year, according to Politico.

Anne Schuchat, MD, principal deputy director of the CDC, also left the agency this year.

Read the full Politico report here.

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