Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Dr. Thomas Frieden

He made the controversial call in October to release the long-awaited H1N1 influenza vaccine in small batches as soon as they rolled off production lines. In the early weeks of flu season, the trickle of available vaccine doses and their spotty distribution led to nationwide shortages, as ramped-up demand for the shots quickly exceeded supply. Dr. Thomas Frieden, President Obama's pick to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anticipated the bumpy rollout but said releasing limited doses was a "better option than just sitting on the vaccine until enough can be distributed in substantial quantities everywhere."

Frieden has responded to H1N1 in the same uncompromising way he earned his public-health credentials. He pioneered tuberculosis-treatment programs in both India and New York City, where he most recently served as health commissioner. In that job, he managed to persuade balky New Yorkers to say fuhgeddaboutit to cigarettes and trans fats in restaurants, by instituting citywide bans on both. So if someone has to lead the country through a pandemic as wily and unpredictable as H1N1, there is perhaps no one more battle-ready than Frieden.

— Alice Park