Birx Not Considering Leaving U.S. White House Task Force; GAO Recommends 6 Guidelines For U.S. Government COVID-19 Response; Trump’s Political Moves Impacting Vaccine Research Efforts

AP: Birx: Not considering leaving coronavirus task force
“White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx on Thursday pushed back against a report that said she was distressed over the direction of the task force and was considering leaving. During a livestreamed news conference at Auburn University in Alabama, Birx was asked about a CNN report that said she was frustrated with what she saw as a diminished role and questioned how long she could remain in the role. Birx said she was not considering leaving…” (9/24).

The Atlantic: Fauci to a Meddling HHS Official: ‘Take a Hike’
“[Tuesday], after weeks of reports about political interference in the efforts of government scientists and public-health experts to inform Americans about the pandemic, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, directly addressed the two Trump administration officials at the center of the recent controversy: Michael Caputo, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, and Caputo’s former science adviser, Paul Alexander, who attempted to censor what scientists, including Fauci, said about the coronavirus. ‘Caputo enabled Alexander,’ Fauci told me over email. ‘Alexander is the one who directly tried to influence the CDC (he may have succeeded, I cannot really say) and even me (I told him to go take a hike).’ Fauci’s comments came after his appearance at The Atlantic Festival [Tuesday] evening…” (Madrigal, 9/23).

CIDRAP News: Watchdog to feds: Do more to blunt COVID-19 harms
“The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) this week recommended 16 federal actions to shore up the U.S. response to the country’s ongoing COVID-19-related ‘catastrophic loss of life and profound economic disruption’…” (Van Beusekom, 9/23).

CNBC: Trump’s coronavirus vaccine czar says he’s had ‘enough’ of Democratic calls for his firing over pharma stock holdings
“President Donald Trump’s coronavirus vaccine czar told CNBC on Wednesday that he’s had enough of accusations that his former work in the pharmaceutical industry creates a conflict of interest. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who was appointed May 15 to run the Trump administration’s Covid-19 vaccine program, Operation Warp Speed, is a former executive at GlaxoSmithKline as well as a former board member of Lonza Group and Moderna…” (Lovelace, 9/23).

The Lancet: Media reports reveal political interference at the U.S. CDC
“After news stories about attempts by members of the Trump administration to manipulate COVID-19 reports published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and over-rule its scientists, one top official is taking a sudden leave of absence for health reasons. Another’s government contract has abruptly ended…” (Jaffe, 9/26).

NBC News: Secret, powerful panels will pick Covid-19 vaccine winners
“…The data and safety monitoring board — known as a DSMB — is supposed to make sure the medicine is safe and it works. It has the power to halt a clinical trial or fast-track it. Shielding the identities of clinicians and statisticians on the board is meant to insulate them from pressure by the company sponsoring the trial, government officials, or the public, according to multiple clinical trial experts who have served on such panels. That could be especially important in the pressure-cooker environment of Covid-19 vaccine research, fueled by President Donald Trump’s promises to deliver a vaccine before Election Day…” (Pradhan, 9/24).

POLITICO: How Trump is undermining his own vaccine race
“…Almost since the start of the coronavirus crisis, Trump has promised a vaccine is just around the corner, repeatedly contradicting his own experts on the timeline and the standards necessary for approval. The goal, he’s made clear, is a viable vaccine just before Election Day — the centerpiece of his own claims that the administration deserves an ‘A-plus’ for its response to Covid-19. But that single-minded pursuit has left a string of damaging episodes in its wake and hopelessly intertwined the delicate drug development process with Trump’s political aims, according to interviews with a dozen public health experts both inside and outside the administration…” (Cancryn, 9/24).

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