The medical doctor in charge of the federal agency tasked with developing a coronavirus vaccine was abruptly removed by the Trump administration and reassigned to a separate, smaller agency this week after he insisted that science and not “politics or cronyism” determine the path forward.
Dr. Rick Bright was removed after questioning President Donald Trump’s promotion and apparent obsession of two malaria drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, that had not shown any scientific promise in treating COVID-19 patients, The New York Times reports. A study released Tuesday shows hydroxychloroquine more than doubles the death rate of COVID-19 patients. President Trump and Fox News spent weeks promoting the drug.
Bright, who is a career government official and not a political appointee, was the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response.
He has spent his entire career developing vaccines.
“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” Dr. Bright said in a statement to The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman.
“I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”
“My professional background has prepared me for a moment like this — to confront and defeat a deadly virus that threatens Americans and people around the globe. To this point, I have led the government’s efforts to invest in the best science available to combat the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dr. Bright added.
“Unfortunately, this resulted in clashes with H.H.S. political leadership, including criticism for my proactive efforts to invest early into vaccines and supplies critical to saving American lives. I also resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections,” Bright said.
Axios has Dr. Bright’s full statement. In part it reads:
Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit.
Sidelining me in the middle of this pandemic and placing politics and cronyism ahead of science puts lives at risk and stunts national efforts to safely and effectively address this urgent public health crisis.
I will request that the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services investigate the manner in which this administration has politicized the work of BARDA and has pressured me and other conscientious scientists to fund companies with political connections and efforts that lack scientific merit.
Rushing blindly towards unproven drugs can be disastrous and result in countless more deaths. Science, in service to the health and safety of the American people, must always trump politics.”
Here’s Dr. Bright speaking about advances in detection of illnesses like the flu two years ago:
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