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Vaccine expert and whistleblower Rick Bright resigns from federal government

Vaccine expert and whistleblower Rick Bright on Tuesday resigned from the federal government, his attorneys announced in a statement. Earlier this year, Bright was removed from a top position at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Bright, a high-ranking scientist, has said the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been slow and chaotic, prioritizing politics over science. Bright earlier this year filed a whistleblower complaint running over 300 pages.

Now, Bright has submitted his resignation to the National Institutes of Health effective immediately and has filed an updated complaint with the Office of Special Counsel alleging constructive discharge based on the failure of NIH leadership to assign him meaningful work, according to Bright’s lawyers.

“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 the in the sickness and death of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” his attorneys, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, said in a statement.

“After having his work suppressed for political reasons to the detriment of public health and safety, Dr. Bright was sidelined from doing any further work to combat this deadly virus,” their statement continued. “This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. He can no longer countenance working for an administration that puts politics over science to the great detriment of the American people.”

Before his transfer, Bright led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which oversees vaccine development. Bright told CBS News earlier this year that his sense of urgency in the early days of coronavirus was not shared by all.

“I believe my concerns were shared by other scientists in the government. And I believe the NIH was also moving very quickly to start some research in developing a vaccine and starting a clinical trial for an antiviral drug,” he said. “What struck me though was my sense of urgency didn’t seem to prevail across all of HHS.”

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HHS whistleblower Rick Bright resigns from government

Rick Bright, the federal vaccine chief-turned-whistleblower who was reassigned to a different agency and subsequently criticized the Trump administration’s pandemic response, has left the federal government, Bright’s lawyers announced on Tuesday.

“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 the [sic.] in the sickness and death of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” lawyers Debra Katz and Lisa Banks said in a statement.

HHS declined comment.

“We can confirm that Dr. Bright has resigned, effective today,” an NIH spokesperson said, adding that the agency “does not discuss personnel issues beyond confirming employment.”

Bright was abruptly removed as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in April and reassigned to NIH, and he alleges that he was demoted because he opposed political pressure linked to an unproven Covid-19 treatment. In his updated filing with the Office of Special Counsel, Bright said that he was assigned “no meaningful work” at NIH since Sept. 4, further alleging that NIH Director Francis Collins “declined to support” his recommendations about coronavirus testing “because of political considerations.”

Bright testified to a House panel in May that he was punished by Health and Human Services Department leaders for raising concerns about hydroxychloroquine, the drug favored by President Donald Trump to treat the coronavirus despite scant evidence. Bright also used the hearing and other media appearances to speak out against the administration’s handling of the pandemic, saying that HHS had missed opportunities to prepare for the spread of Covid-19 and raising further charges of cronyism.

Bright appears in an upcoming documentary, “Totally Under Control,” which faults the Trump administration’s handling of the outbreak and is set to be released next week. The New York Times first reported Bright’s resignation.

HHS has spent months rebuffing Bright’s claims, saying that as vaccine chief he lacked full visibility into the administration’s efforts and noting that Bright played a key role in the government’s acquisition of hydroxychloroquine. The health department also issued a document called “CLAIM vs. REALITY” that sought to rebut Bright’s points.

Meanwhile, Trump repeatedly dismissed Bright as a “disgruntled” employee.

Other officials have subsequently echoed Bright’s criticisms of the Trump administration’s handling of the outbreak, including Olivia Troye, who advised Vice President Mike Pence on the coronavirus response before leaving the White House this summer.

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