Oct 6, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Top vaccine whistleblower Rick Bright resigns from government

Richard Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, testifying before Congress in May.
Richard Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, testifying before Congress in May. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The senior vaccine scientist who said in a whistleblower complaint last May that he was demoted for political reasons resigned from his position at the Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Rick Bright, who was chief of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), told Congress in May he believes he was demoted after trying to limit the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus.

  • Context: President Trump and his allies in conservative media at the time promoted the antimalarial drug, despite a lack of evidence that it is an effective treatment for the virus.

In a new addendum to the complaint he filed in May, Bright’s lawyers wrote that National Institutes of Health officials rejected his idea for a national coronavirus testing strategy “because of political considerations," according to the Times.

  • Bright also accused the officials of ignoring his request to join Operation Warp Speed, the program to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine.

Worth noting: One of Bright's lawyers said he “remains very concerned” about the politicization of science from the White House, specifically pointing to the appointment of neuroradiologist Scott Atlas as an adviser on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

  • "[Atlas'] arrival to the White House Task Force has added to confusion and consternation among senior public health officials about who makes decisions and guides the planning for the pandemic response," the complaint reads.
  • "On several occasions, senior HHS officials, including [testing coordinator] Admiral Giroir, have complained about the confusing and sometimes disruptive role Dr. Atlas has played and continues to play. It is becoming increasingly unclear to Dr. Bright who is in charge of making final decisions for COVID-19 testing efforts."
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