Ousted Vaccine Official, In First Interview, Says U.S. Wasting Time In COVID-19 Fight

Rick Bright, the ousted government scientist who oversaw the federal government’s search for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, fired back on Friday at President Donald Trump dismissing him as “a disgruntled employee who’s trying to help the Democrats win an election” in November. 

“I am not disgruntled,” Bright told CBS Evening News host Norah O’Donnell in his first interview since losing his job. Detailing his concerns about the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, he continued, “I am frustrated at a lack of leadership. I am frustrated at a lack of urgency to get a head start on developing lifesaving tools for Americans. I’m frustrated at our inability to be heard as scientists. Those things frustrate me.”

Bright, a virologist who served as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), said he believes he lost that job and was given another for sounding the alarm on Trump promoting an unproven COVID-19 treatment ― a belief the Office of Special Counsel said earlier Friday is warranted.

“To take me out of our organization focused on drugs and vaccines and diagnostics in the middle of a pandemic, of the worst public health crisis that our country’s faced in a century, and decapitate the BARDA organization … is not responsible,” Bright said. “Didn’t make sense.”

Bright filed a whistleblower complaint with the special counsel after he was transferred to a lesser job at the National Institutes of Health late last month.

The treatment Trump touted is hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria treatment the president has touted as an effective COVID-19 treatment despite no evidence it works. In a scathing statement Bright made shortly after his dismissal, he said he was under pressure to divert federal funding to the unproven treatment.

Bright also told CBS News that the Trump administration was wasting valuable time it could be using to protect others working to treat patients. 

“We see too many doctors and nurses now dying,” Bright told O’Donnell. “And I was thinking that we could have done more to get those masks and those supplies to them sooner. And if we had, would they still be alive today? It’s a horrible thought to think about the time that passed where we could’ve done something and we didn’t.”

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