Saturday, 31 Oct 2020

A senior vaccine scientist who blew the whistle on political interference resigns.

A senior vaccine scientist at the Department of Health and Human Services resigned from government service following a long battle with White House appointees over their interference in his efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Rick Bright served as chief of the department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until six months ago, when he was abruptly reassigned to a narrower job at the National Health Institute after raising concerns about “cronyism” and political interference in science.

Dr. Bright, who filed a whistle-blower complaint in May, filed a new addendum saying that officials at the N.I.H., where he worked after his demotion, rejected his idea for a national coronavirus testing strategy “because of political considerations.” He also accused them of ignoring his request to join the $10 billion effort to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine, known as Operation Warp Speed, and of sidelining him to the point where he had no work to do.

The addendum said Dr. Bright “remains very concerned” about the failure of the Trump administration to put forth a national plan to combat the pandemic and is troubled by the growing influence of Stanford’s Hoover Institution of Dr. Scott W. Atlas, a neuroradiologist without training in epidemiology or infectious diseases. Dr. Atlas’s aversion to mask wearing and his belief that “herd immunity” could stop Covid-19 have made him a favorite of President Trump.

“Dr. Bright was forced to leave his position at N.I.H. because he can no longer sit idly by and work for an administration that ignores scientific expertise, overrules public health guidance and disrespects career scientists, resulting in the sickness and death of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Dr. Bright’s lawyers, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, said in a statement.

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