Ousted vaccine director files whistleblower complaint alleging coronavirus warnings were ignored


By Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond and Kevin Liptak, CNN

(CNN) Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted director of the office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, formally filed an extensive whistleblower complaint Tuesday alleging his early warnings about the coronavirus were ignored and that his caution at a treatment favored by President Donald Trump led to his removal.

Bright had led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority since 2016 when he was reassigned last month to a narrower position at the National Institutes of Health.

In his whistleblower complaint, Bright says he raised concerns about US preparedness for coronavirus starting in January but was met with “indifference which then developed into hostility” by leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.

His attorneys argue that Bright’s removal from his post amounts to a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act, claiming that Bright “has engaged in numerous instances of protected activity.”

In the complaint, he says he is seeking reinstatement as BARDA’s director and asking for a full investigation.

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  1. A government vaccine specialist who was moved out of his job last month alleges that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services resisted his warnings about the dangers of the coronavirus and removed him from his position for raising alarms about an antimalarial drug President Trump had touted as a potential treatment.

    Rick Bright, who had led an HHS division on biomedical research, portrayed agency leadership as dismissing his concerns about the novel coronavirus in a complaint filed Tuesday with the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal investigative agency. The complaint alleges that career scientists were concerned the U.S. wasn’t properly preparing for a potential pandemic.

    He also alleged that a consultant representing drugmakers had unusual sway inside HHS, and that those drugmakers were awarded contracts for the U.S. National Stockpile over the objections of internal advisory groups.

    Dr. Bright said he was removed in April from his job heading HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or Barda, and transferred to the National Institutes of Health in retaliation for voicing concerns about the safety of hydroxychloroquine.

    Mr. Trump and other government officials have promoted the antimalarial drug as a possibly effective treatment for Covid-19. The Food and Drug Administration has warned that hydroxychloroquine and another malaria treatment have been linked to serious heart problems and should be used only on hospitalized patients or as part of clinical trials.

    HHS disputes Dr. Bright’s characterization of the reasons for his removal as head of Barda, and officials said there already had been plans to remove him following an outside consultant’s reports in 2018 and 2019 on problems with the agency.


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