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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."

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jan 13, 2021 - Health

Why COVID demands genetic surveillance

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A seemingly more transmissible coronavirus variant is threatening the world — and exposing the U.S.' lackluster genetic surveillance.

Why it matters: A beefed-up program to sequence the genomes of infectious disease pathogens infections could help the U.S. identify dangerous new coronavirus variants — and get the jump on pathogens that could ignite the pandemics of the future.

Jan 14, 2021 - Health

WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins

Health workers at a cordoned-off section of the international airport in Wuhan, China, as the World Health Organization team arrives on Thursday. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

A World Health Organization team of researchers arrived in Wuhan, China, Thursday ahead of their investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Driving the news: Dominic Dwyer, a Sydney virologist based who's among the scientists on the visit, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation they don't expect to find a "patient zero." "But we may have a much better indication of whether the virus truly started in Wuhan," he said.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Fauci: "I would vaccinate them in a second" — CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot — FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-11 year olds.
  2. Health: COVID cases fall by 20% — Public health messaging lessons for the next pandemic — Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization, study finds — COVID cases, deaths at meat plants were far higher than previously thought.
  3. Politics: NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate — Judge rejects Southwest pilots' challenge to vaccine mandate — Louisiana lifts mask mandate except for some schools.
  4. Education: Benefits of vaccine for children outweigh risks, FDA says — Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.