WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to whistleblower employees at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the two agencies are being accused of “altering” guidance related to the COVID-19 pandemic and even “suppressing” their findings due to political pressure.
The over a dozen employees in question – who said they feared backlash from their employers if they directly spoke up – voiced their concerns over the CDC and FDA policies to investigators from the watchdog Government Accountability Office (GAO), saying that “’political interference” was abundant when it came to their research on the pandemic.
The GAO stated that they spoke with two former CDC directors, and four former FDA directors, and 17 employees for their report.
The employees noted that neither the CDC nor FDA have systems in-place for spotting and/or reporting allegations of political interference, which is why they turned to a third-party to report their concerns that scientific research and government policy and guidance during the pandemic was clandestinely shaped by politicians to serve their own end, instead of scientists.
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These issues are said to have begun with the Trump Administration, with then-President Donald Trump reportedly pressuring reports from the CDC to be altered or suppressed to support his own personal views on the pandemic, which did not align with those of medical research scientists.
However, the GAO report published last week looked into the CDC, FDA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR); all of these agencies are under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which the GAO had noted in a previous report was at “high risk” for “fraud, mismanagement and abuse.”
The GAO had set up an anonymous hotline for two months, during which they received numerous complaints of “political interference” intended to “undermine impartiality… and professional judgment” of COVID-related guidance and research, although for the sake of confidentiality specific instances of interference were not divulged.
Despite their attempts to protect the identities of the whistleblowers, the GAO nonetheless did hint in a footnote in their report that the results of a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) by the CDC may have been influenced by emails sent by Trump officials to researchers.
In addition, a New York Times article quoted the FDA as claiming that blood plasma transfusion for COVID patients offered a 35 percent effective chance of survival, news that Trump reportedly at the time called “’tremendous.” However, scientists said that number “grossly misrepresented” the effectiveness of the blood transfusions against COVID, with more recent evidence backing up the their claims.
A state health official also claims that he was “reassigned” after declining to devote financing and research into hydroxychloroquine, a controversial drug that Trump had supported as an effective COVID treatment.
This alleged interference has also carried over to the Biden Administration; most recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci – top medical advisor to the White House – was criticized by members of the health community for claiming that the United States is “out of the pandemic phase” of COVID-19. In response, many doctors and researchers contrasting Fauci and insisting that the pandemic is still very much a real threat to Americans.
Despite his claims of the pandemic essentially being over, Fauci raised eyebrows this week by immediately walking back his statement and pulling out of a White House Correspondents’ Dinner, citing his personal COVID-19 concerns despite being fully vaccinated and having received two booster shots.
The GAO – which noted that they did not investigate to see if the allegations made were true or not – recommended that the CDC, FDA, NIH and ASPR adopt policies and instigate employee training that will enable the agencies to report suspected political interference in their work going forward.