Dr. Rick Bright, one of the nation’s top pandemic preparedness and vaccine experts, resigned from the Trump administration on Tuesday, saying he’d been repeatedly sidelined because he “raised concerns about the Trump administration’s chaotic and reckless response to the COVID-19 pandemic".
“The public health crisis is worsening; there is too much at stake now for Dr. Bright to continue to stay silent, and these latest efforts to stifle his work and force him to sit idle have further harmed him and this nation as a whole,” his lawyers said in a statement.
In May, Dr. Rick Bright filed a whistleblower complaint against the Department of Health and Human Services for “an abuse of authority or gross mismanagement.”
He alleges he was ousted from his posts as deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response and director of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in April because he questioned the Trump administration’s enthusiastic embrace of hydroxychloroquine and other unproven coronavirus treatment.
“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he told the New York Times at the time of the transfer.
“I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”
After what he says was a quick and unexplained transfer to the National Institutes of Health, Bright alleges in an updated complaint that he was then sidelined once again, given little to do, and had detailed recommendations on how to improve the nation’s patchy coronavirus testing scheme ignored.
"Dr. Bright was forced to leave his position at NIH because he can no longer sit idly by and work for an administration that ignores scientific expertise, overrules public health guidance and disrespects career scientists, resulting in the sickness and death of hundreds of thousands of Americans," his lawyers told NBC News, which reported the resignation on Tuesday.
Early in the pandemic President Trump administration pushed for health authorities, and the public more broadly, to embrace the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, even though it lacked major evidence of its effectiveness at the time. Dr. Bright said pushing to seriously vet the treatment helped lead to his removal.
HHS did not respond to a request for comment.