Dr. Rick Bright, who led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) until his recent reassignment to a position with a smaller scope of responsibilities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alleges in a new whistleblower complaint that he has filed with a government oversight agency that throughout the early days of the emergence of the Coronavirus, officials at the Trump appointee-led Department of Health and Human Services prioritized downplaying the virus’s severity and securing political kickbacks above effectively preparing for the virus’s spread in the United States.
Bright had already publicly explained that prior to his firing from his old job, which included leading the development of vaccines, he’d ended up at odds with officials who were advocating for President Donald Trump’s untested idea that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine could be used to combat the Coronavirus. His new revelations reveal a wider pattern of misconduct that has left American lives in the balance amidst the administration’s failure to prepare for the virus.
Bright is requesting an investigation into his supposedly politically motivated reassignment and, concurrently, a reinstatement at his old job. He says that he “encountered indifference which then developed into hostility from HHS leadership” after attempting to secure effective preparations for a then-looming major threat from the Coronavirus.
The complaint reads:
‘Rather than deferring to Dr. Bright’s expertise and judgment and heeding his calls for urgent action, HHS leadership criticized him for his efforts and removed him from meetings going forward.’
Bright’s complaint says that he was told that he “offended” leading officials at the Department of Health and Human Services with his repeated attempts to secure medical supplies that were already clearly going to be crucial to a U.S. fight against the pandemic. Why on earth would any remotely competent public health official care if they’d been “offended” by a colleague trying to secure supplies to protect American lives? The answer, of course, is that none would. Instead, the Trump appointee-led Department of Health and Human Services appears to be racked with partisans.
Bright says that by late January, “HHS leadership was doing nothing to prepare for the imminent mask shortage,” adding:
‘even as HHS leadership began to acknowledge the imminent shortages in critical medical supplies, they failed to recognize the magnitude of the problem, and they failed to take the necessary urgent action.’
Instead, they were focusing on topics like the promotion of hydroxychloroquine. Bright says that he “resisted efforts to fall into line with the Administration’s directive to promote the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and to award lucrative contracts for these and other drugs even though they lacked scientific merit and had not received prior scientific vetting.” In the time since the early praise for the drug from the president and his allies, the Food and Drug Administration has admonished Americans against using the drug outside of a hospital or clinical trial setting.
Although tens of thousands of Americans have died from the Coronavirus, Trump and some of his closest allies just keep congratulating themselves for a supposed job well done.