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Former vaccine chief demoted amid White House criticism quits post

Former vaccine chief demoted amid White House criticism quits post
© Greg Nash

Rick Bright, who said he was demoted from his position at the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) due to criticism of the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 response, has resigned from the government.

In an updated whistleblower complaint filed Tuesday, Bright claims that the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where he was demoted in April, rejected his recommendations for fixing the nation’s COVID-19 testing strategy due to “political considerations.” He further claims that he had not been assigned new work since Sept. 4, when he completed the one assignment he was given.

Bright further raised alarms that Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who is one of Trump’s COVID-19 advisers, was “calling the shots” at the White House despite not having a background in infectious diseases. 

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Bright’s lawyers, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, said in a statement that Bright resigned 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 the in the sickness and death of hundreds of thousands of Americans.” 

In his initial whistleblower complaint in May, Bright alleged that he encountered hostility from the Department of Health and Human Services about the threat of the virus. He further claimed he was ousted over intervening in the administration's strategy to make chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — two drugs the president has pushed as treatments for the virus — widely available.

Bright in June updated his complaint, in which he complained of the limiting scope of his role leading the NIH’s RADx-Advanced Technology Platforms program, which was aimed at contracting diagnostics companies to make more COVID-19 tests.

The former vaccine czar has publicly been at odds with the Administration since his resignation. On the day of his congressional testimony before a House committee in May, Trump and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar attempted to discredit Bright, and Trump labeled him a “disgruntled employee” on Twitter.

The NIH confirmed that Bright had resigned effective Tuesday. The Hill has reached out to HHS for comment.