CDC to overhaul lab operations in wake of COVID failures

The CDC plans to overhaul its lab operations after mishaps with its COVID-19 test, KFF Health News reported Aug. 21. 

The CDC's Laboratory Workgroup — a panel of lab researchers, public health officials, policy experts and physicians that provides input on the agency's lab operations — released a report in February detailing the failings of the agency's COVID-19 test with recommendations for improvements. The group called the test "one of the first and most consequential" missteps in the federal government's overall response to the pandemic. 

The workgroup found that the failures of the COVID-19 test stemmed from inadequacies in its lab operations, including a lack of unified leadership and insufficient planning and quality control systems. 

It also stated that the CDC will need to make major changes to achieve high-quality standards, noting the agency has already made changes or is in the process of implementing them to address the shortcomings. Among the 10 recommendations are establishing an effective management structure, adopting new systems, consolidating lab functions into a new center and creating plans for developing tests.

Jill Taylor, PhD, an adviser for the Association of Public Health Laboratories, told KFF Health News that responses to future public health emergencies are dependent on whether the CDC enhances its lab operations. She also said failure to implement changes could mean the development of tests for new disease threats could be left to commercial labs.

The CDC is also facing budget cuts, including a $1.5 billion revocation under the Public Health Funding and the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 as well as another $1.6 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.

 

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