Demoted US vaccines chief to make whistleblower complaint

By on 28/04/2020 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Vaccine expert Dr Bright says he was sidelined for resisting efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs “promoted by those with political connections”. (Photo by Retha Ferguson via Pexels).

A demoted US vaccines agency leader is to file a whistleblower complaint against the Trump administration, claiming that he was sidelined after resisting the president’s promotion of “potentially dangerous drugs”.

Dr Rick Bright, who had been director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) since 2016, was removed from that post and from his position as the health department’s deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response on 21 April. He has been reassigned to what Bright describes in a statement as a “more limited and less impactful” role at the National Institutes of Health.

“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,” Bright said in the statement. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science – not politics or cronyism – has to lead the way.”

Bright said that he had been criticised by political leaders at the health department for his “proactive efforts to invest early in vaccines and supplies critical to saving American lives” and for resisting efforts “to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections”. He believes he was ousted specifically for questioning the potential of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug touted by Trump, and the related drug chloroquine.

Bright’s lawyers confirmed that he would be filing a whistleblower complaint. Under US law, a whistleblower complaint can be filed if a person believes their employer retaliated against them for exercising their rights as an employee.

His lawyer’s statement said: “In our filing we will make clear that Dr Bright was sidelined for one reason only – because he resisted efforts to provide unfettered access to potentially dangerous drugs, including chloroquine, a drug promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which is untested and possibly deadly when used improperly.”

Asked about the row during a coronavirus briefing last week, Trump said he’d “never heard of” Bright, adding: “A guy says he was pushed out of a job. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. You’d have to hear the other side.”

Trump came under fire last week for suggesting in a press briefing that ingesting or injecting disinfectant could be tested as a treatment for coronavirus.

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.


  1. PA says:

    Mia is soooo not a “journalist”. Please forbid her from promoting partisan politics.

  2. PA says:

    Mia is soooo not a “journalist”. Please forbid her from promoting shallow partisan politics.

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