Gottlieb says government's early COVID-19 response was a 'failure of vision'

Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the government’s early response to the coronavirus pandemic was a “failure of vision.”

During an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Gottlieb explained that the perception that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could quickly respond to the pandemic was wrong.

Gottlieb recalled the CDC developing a coronavirus test kit that would be mass-manufactured and deployed to public health labs, but the kits were later found to be faulty due to likely contamination.  Even if the agency was successful, Gottlieb said, the CDC didn’t have the capacity to perform the necessary number of tests.

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“I think it's very difficult for an agency to have this self awareness that they don't have the capacity to respond the way they're being asked,” Gottlieb explained. “And I think it's very difficult for an agency to self organize differently in the setting of a crisis.”

Gottlieb also said that the CDC needed to work with other agencies and that the federal government needed to turn to the private sector to ramp up its response. Government agencies eventually came together for the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed to accelerate the development of coronavirus vaccines.

The project involved the FDA, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense scaling up manufacturing.

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“We needed to do that at day one, we need to get FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and the DOJ [Department of Justice] engaged with the CDC in trying to organize a national-level response,” Gottlieb said.

CBS reporter Margaret Brennan interjected during the former official's explanation, asking why the CDC did not partner with its other agencies. 

"Why didn't they?" she asked. "Is that a failure of Robert RedfieldRobert RedfieldGottlieb says government's early COVID-19 response was a 'failure of vision' House Democrats expand probe into political interference into CDC during Trump administration Redfield says he thinks virus 'evolved' in lab to transmit better MORE, the head of the CDC at the time?"

“That was a failure of political leadership, and it was a failure vision. But you know there were a lot of people who were good political leaders who all wrongly assumed that CDC had this mission,” Gottlieb said.

The former FDA commissioner has been open about his thoughts on the CDC’s response to the pandemic.

In his book “Uncontrolled Spread,” set for release Sept. 21, Gottlieb says the agency hindered the pandemic response because it was too slow to implement policies and changes.