October 6th, 2022 2 Minute Read Press Release

New Issue Brief: Regulating the CDC’s Public Health Recommendations

How Congress can ensure that public health guidance is clear, transparent, and scientific.

New York, NY – In July, the Biden Administration prevented the institution of “good guidance practices” in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a new issue brief, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Randall Lutter argues that such practices would have required the CDC to issue guidance less autocratically, more transparently, and more clearly, and that since the Biden Administration is not willing to require them, Congress needs to step in. 

The pandemic proved that incoherent, confusing, or inconsistent public health guidance can cause real damage. This is precisely why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has employed “good guidance practices” for over twenty years, after major industry associations pushed Congress to require it to do so. Lutter argues that the FDA’s experience shows that better CDC guidance procedures are feasible and worthwhile, and these include: 

  • Soliciting public feedback: Solicitation of public comment ensures that all benefits and risks of a specific public health guidance are considered, demonstrates a commitment to transparency, and ensures that guidance communicates what it intends to.  
  • Clarity about legal weight: All guidance documents should use standardized statements indicating that their contents do not have the full force of law and do not bind the public unless specifically included in a contract. 
  • Establishment of accessible databases: A guidance database provides clarity about which recommendations arise in what context, which are in effect, and which have been withdrawn. 
  • Provide scientific evidence: The CDC has a responsibility to make its guidance as scientifically supported as possible. Currently, CDC guidance documents are typically not supported by a technical document explaining the scientific basis for recommendations.  

Requiring these changes to the CDC’s guidance-issuing procedure is not a panacea for its problems, but for Congress, it’s a necessary place to start.  


Read the full Issue Brief here.  


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