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Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former CDC Director Robert Redfield told Vanity Fair that he received death threats from other scientists after telling CNN in March that he believes the coronavirus accidentally "escaped" from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Why it matters: The allegation was featured in a sweeping investigation by Vanity Fair into the battles over the origins of COVID-19 that have raged inside the U.S. government and scientific community.

  • Redfield's claims underscore the fraught nature of the debate over the lab-leak theory, which has risen in prominence in recent weeks after initially being dismissed by many scientists and the mainstream media.
  • "I was threatened and ostracized because I proposed another hypothesis," Redfield told Vanity Fair. "I expected it from politicians. I didn’t expect it from science."

The big picture: President Biden last month ordered the U.S. intelligence community to "redouble" its efforts to investigate the origins of the coronavirus and produce a report within 90 days that "could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion."

  • The request came after the Wall Street Journal reported on previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence that suggested three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill enough to be hospitalized in November 2019.
  • The WIV's lead coronavirus researcher, Shi Zhengli, had previously performed "gain-of-function" experiments to make viruses more infectious, a controversial field of study intended to help scientists combat potential future pandemics.
  • The lab received some U.S. government funding through the National Institutes of Health and a nonprofit called the EcoHealth Alliance, but officials — including Anthony Fauci — have strenuously denied that the U.S. funded gain-of-function research.

Driving the news: Led by contributing editor Katherine Eban, Vanity Fair conducted a months-long investigation that included interviews with more than 40 people and a review of hundreds of pages of government documents.

  • One of those documents was an internal memo sent by former assistant secretary of state Thomas DiNanno, a Trump appointee, alleging that staff within the department had warned leaders "not to pursue an investigation into the origin of COVID-19" because it could "open a can of worms."
  • On Dec. 9, an official warned colleagues not to ask questions about the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s controversial coronavirus research, as it would call attention to U.S. government support for that research, according to another document.
  • The warnings "smelled like a cover-up," DiNanno told Vanity Fair, "and I wasn’t going to be part of it."

Worthy of your time: Read the full Vanity Fair investigation

Go deeper

Sep 10, 2021 - Health

FDA "will follow the science" to approve COVID vaccine for kids under 12

A nurse gives a boy a dose of the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The FDA said on Friday that it is "working around the clock" to support the process of making the coronavirus vaccine available for children under the age of 12.

Why it matters: The number of children getting hospitalized due to the virus is increasing, with some infectious disease doctors worrying that the Delta variant could be causing more serious illness in kids.

Sep 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Former FDA chief: U.S. has to continue to "chip away" at new vaccinations

Screenshot: Axios

The U.S. will have to find new ways to get unvaccinated Americans inoculated against the coronavirus to curb the pandemic, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said during an Axios virtual event on Friday.

Why it matters: President Biden announced several efforts to boost new vaccinations, including requiring more than 80 million Americans working in the private sector to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or produce a negative test result at least once a week.

Updated 17 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters, WHO says — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker

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