The White House won’t tolerate scientists who disagree with their political agenda. This was made clear early in the Biden Administration. On 2/19/21, just four weeks after President Joe Biden took the oath of office, I wrote CDC Director Caves to Politics. The new CDC Director appointed by the Biden Administration, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, had just caved into the White House demands to alter her scientific opinion.
Here’s what I said at that time: “In an article published January 26th in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), three researchers from the CDC found “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission” of the coronavirus. The CDC researchers looked at more than 90,000 students in 11 North Carolina districts and found that only 32 students and staff members were infected in school, while 773 got infected during the same period out of school. The science was clear; reopening schools was safe for children and teachers.
Then Dr. Walensky made her big mistake. On February 3rd, she announced these findings to the press. She made it clear that the science supported reopening schools. In her statement she said, “Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.” This was a direct refutation of the demands being made by teachers unions before they would return to the classrooms. When asked about her statement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded Dr. Walensky was speaking “in her personal capacity” and not as the director of the CDC.”
In other words, the White House, not those public health officials with scientific credentials, would make the medical decisions that affected millions of children and their teachers.
This lesson was heard loud and clear by Dr. Walensky and by many other physicians and scientists who work for the Biden Administration. The latest evidence of this comes from Dr. Marty Makary, Johns Hopkins Medical School professor. In an article written for The New York Post, Makary says “doctors and scientists at the top levels of the National Institutes for Health (NIH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are variously frustrated, exasperated and alarmed about the direction of the agencies to which they have devoted their careers.”
“It’s like a horror movie I’m forced to watch and I can’t close my eyes,” one senior FDA official lamented. “People are getting bad advice and we can’t say anything.” That particular FDA doctor was referring to two recent developments inside the agency. First, how, with no solid clinical data, the agency authorized Covid vaccines for infants and toddlers, including those who already had Covid. And second, the fact that just months before the FDA bypassed its external experts to authorize booster shots for young children.
The same environment exists at the NIH Vaccine Research Center. Many of its senior scientists have left over the last year, including the director, deputy director, and chief medical officer. “They have no leadership right now. Suddenly there’s an enormous number of jobs opening up at the highest-level positions,” one NIH scientist told Makary.
The CDC has experienced a similar exodus. “There’s been a large amount of turnover. Morale is low,” one high level official at the CDC told Makary. “Things have become so political, so what are we there for?” Another CDC scientist told Makary, “I used to be proud to tell people I work at the CDC. Now I’m embarrassed.”
The truth is this situation could have been prevented. If Dr. Walensky had resigned rather than alter her opinion regarding the safety of reopening schools without the vaccination of teachers, a line would have been drawn in the sand telling the White House they cannot make scientific policy decisions. By caving into the pressure from the White House, Dr. Walensky made it clear her job was more important than her scientific opinion.
Next post: How this situation is affecting policy decisions regarding children.