The Trump administration was warned in late January that it had a critical shortage of surgical masks needed to combat coronavirus and that it needed to prioritize the development of a vaccine. But it failed to take action, a top administration health official alleges in a whistleblower complaint formally filed on Tuesday.
The complaint from Dr. Rick Bright, who led the government’s efforts to find a vaccine for the coronavirus before being reassigned to a position at the National Institutes of Health, details what he describes as a staggering degree of inaction from administration officials bracing for a historic pandemic. Bright, who served as a program leader within the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), says he raised alarms about supply chain shortages early on during the coronavirus’ spread. While certain officials inside the administration shared his fears — most notably, President Donald Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro — others did not.
Eventually, Bright says, he was excluded from a meeting on COVID, even though the agenda for the meeting listed him as a participant. He claims he was ultimately fired for pushing back and speaking out against the administration’s attempts to push an unproven COVID therapy drug.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Caitlin Oakley, an HHS Spokesperson, said “Dr. Bright was transferred to NIH to work on diagnostics testing – critical to combatting COVID-19 – where he has been entrusted to spend upwards of $1 billion to advance that effort.” Oakley added that the agency was “deeply disappointed that he has not shown up to work on behalf of the American people and lead on this critical endeavor.”
A spokesman for Bright said there was a reason he had not shown up to work: he’s been suffering from “hypertension caused by this current situation” and been advised by his doctor to take sick leave…
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