Center for Inquiry Calls for Reinstatement of White House Vaccine Expert

For Immediate Release: April 23, 2020
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

The Trump Administration’s removal of the federal government’s leading expert on vaccines, in apparent retaliation for disagreement with the president, exemplifies how the White House is placing the ego of President Trump over the safety and lives of Americans, said the Center for Inquiry today. 

STAT News reported that Dr. Rick Bright, formerly the director of the federal agency responsible for producing and purchasing vaccines, was dismissed in retaliation for insisting that federal COVID-19 response efforts be devoted to scientifically proven treatments rather than the unproven “quick fix” medication, hydroxychloroquine, promoted by President Trump. Dr. Bright, a medical scientist whose career focus is on influenza viruses, antiviral drugs, and tests, was transferred from his position as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to a less impactful role in the National Institutes of Health. 

On the following day, Dr. Bright published a statement accusing the Trump Administration of retaliation for his dissent. 

“Dr. Bright’s removal is a nakedly political act of the worst kind,” said Jason Lemieux, CFI’s Director of Government Affairs. “It is the pinnacle of reckless, antiscience policy that has already cost lives, and will continue to do so. If the Administration were as concerned about protecting American lives as they are about protecting Donald Trump’s feelings, we would be in a much better position today.” 

“At the very least, the Trump Administration should immediately reinstate Dr. Bright to his position, and commit all federal COVID-19 medical response efforts to scientifically proven treatments that are accepted by the medical community,” said Lemieux. “This is a time when we should be depending on our world-leading scientists and researchers, not seeking to threaten them into silence and compliance.”

As a consequence of Trump’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine despite a lack of scientific evidence, the drugs have since been purchased in large quantities, reportedly resulting in shortages for patients who need these drugs for FDA-approved purposes including the treatment of Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of April 18, 23,358 people in the United States had died from COVID-19. However, some epidemiologists warn that, due to the difficulty in tracking and promptly reporting deaths during a global pandemic, the CDC’s figure is likely an undercount of the true total death toll.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at