Ousted top vaccine official amended his whistleblower complaint, alleging ongoing retaliation by HHS Director Alex Azar

Image
Rick Bright, a scientist who was fired from the Department of Health and Human Services last month, appeared on ’60 Minutes’ to discuss his frustrations with the US coronavirus response. Screenshot/60 Minutes
  • Top vaccine scientist Dr. Rick Bright claimed he was still facing ongoing retaliation from the Trump administration after alleging in a whistleblower complaint that the government ignored his early warnings of the coronavirus.
  • In April, Bright was removed as director of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which falls under the Health and Human Services Department. He was later reassigned to a lesser position at the National Institutes of Health, which is under HHS.
  • Bright alleged that HHS Sec. Alex Azar was leading a “coordinated effort” against him and accused him of telling HHS employees to “refrain from doing anything that would help Dr. Bright be successful in his new role.”
  • At his new role at NIH, Bright was supposed to be working on virus diagnostic tests, but the complaint said he “is cut off from all vaccine work, cut off from all therapeutic work, and has a very limited role in the diagnostic work.”
  • The complaint went on to allege that BARDA’s new acting director, Dr. Gary Disbrow, said Azar “was very angry with Dr. Bright and was ‘on the war path.'”
  • Disbrow refuted the claims in the complaint, saying he was “confused by these untrue statements and allegations, which distract from the important work we are doing in response to the coronavirus.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An ousted top US health official amended his whistleblower complaint accusing the US of ignoring his early coronavirus warnings, claiming there is ongoing retaliation by Trump officials even after his ouster.

Dr. Rick Bright previously served as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which falls under the jurisdiction of the Health and Human Services Department.

He was removed from his post back in April, alleging he was fired in retaliation for not touting Trump-backed coronavirus treatments. Bright, a vaccine scientist was reassigned to a lesser role at the National Institutes of Health, also under HHS.

Bright then filed the initial whistleblower complaint in light of his ouster, claiming that he was reassigned because he refused to tout Trump-backed coronavirus treatments and accusing the government of disregarding his warnings on the threat of the coronavirus.

“Where Bright previously oversaw 200 hundred or more projects at BARDA, he’s now been given responsibility for five to eight projects, involving diagnostic tests already approved by the Food and Drug Administration,” The Associated Press reported.

In the amended complaint, Bright claimed that HHS Sec. Alex Azar was leading a “coordinated effort” against him and accused him of telling HHS employees to “refrain from doing anything that would help Dr. Bright be successful in his new role.”

At his new role at NIH, Bright was supposed to be working on virus diagnostic tests, but the complaint said he “is cut off from all vaccine work, cut off from all therapeutic work, and has a very limited role in the diagnostic work.”

“His extremely narrow role is confined to making contracts with diagnostics companies that have already developed diagnostics, to scale up their production,” the complaint said, according to AP.

The complaint went on to allege that BARDA’s new acting director, Dr. Gary Disbrow, said Azar “was very angry with Dr. Bright and was ‘on the war path.'”

“I did not make any of these statements and Secretary Azar has never spoken to me in the manner alleged,” the HHS said in a statement on behalf of Disbrow, according to the AP report. “I have also never instructed any BARDA employee not to talk to Rick. In fact, I had a conversation with him yesterday about how to collaborate.”

“I am confused by these untrue statements and allegations, which distract from the important work we are doing in response to the coronavirus,” the statement continued.

Bright, however, “stands by his allegations in the complaint,” according to Bright’s lawyers, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, who responded to the HHS statement on his behalf.

His lawyers told AP “the failure of the administration to heed [Bright’s] warnings has had a catastrophic effect on this country.”