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Ex-BARDA chief warns of 'darkest' US winter in modern history due to COVID-19

Published on 18/05/20 at 10:17am
Photo by US Capitol

The former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) has warned that due to the US’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic “2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.”

Dr Rick Bright was ousted by the Trump administration last month for, what he believes, was his pushback against President Trump pushing hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as COVID-19 treatments, despite a lack of evidence.

He has since filed a whistleblower complaint alleging he was removed for political reasons.

Bright testified before the Subcommittee on Health for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce about his complaint and the pandemic. He told them: “Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities. Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.”

Bright also cast doubt on the Trump administration’s goal of developing a vaccine in the next 12 to 18 months. He told the Subcommittee: “My concern is if we rush too quickly, and consider cutting out critical steps, we may not have a full assessment of the safety of that vaccine. So, it's still going to take some time.”

Dr Bright is still seeking to be reinstated as the head of BARDA, and the Office of the Special Counsel, which is reviewing his complaint, has indicated that there is a likelihood of wrongdoing in his dismissal, according to Bright’s attorneys.

Previously, Bright had come out and stated his concerns with the government’s handling of the pandemic. In regards to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, Bright said he “witnessed government leadership rushing blindly into a potentially dangerous situation by bringing in a non-FDA approved chloroquine from Pakistan and India, from facilities that had never been approved by the FDA.” He added that “their eagerness to push blindly forward without sufficient data to put this drug into the hands of Americans was alarming to me and my fellow scientists.”

BARDA was created in 2006, and partners with the pharmaceutical industry to develop treatments to counter pandemics and biological or chemical attacks.

Conor Kavanagh

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